Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Apparently We Can All Get Along

When I was in Boca Raton, Florida on Tuesday, I noticed two houses of worship across the street from one another on the 300 block of SW 4th Avenue. One was the St. Joan of Arc Church, the other was Temple Beth El of Boca Raton. As I pondered what kind of interfaith programming they might do, my eyes caught these two signs at the entrance to each parking lot. As we are fond of saying here, there is hope for our future.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Keeping up with Macy’s, Saks, and Bergdorf’s

This blog is by Lisa, who wandered past what sounds like a Jewish version of a Disney World ride, but even cooler.

With the holiday season comes a plethora of pop-up stores, each unique in its own way. One in particular caught my attention: the Chanukah Super Store. And, it really is true to its name.

Chanukah Super Store features two spectacular holiday display windows. The backdrop for the displays is a shtetl home, with one scene featuring life-size, moving figures of a family, all gathered around the table playing with a dreidel and lighting a menorah. This window also features a monitor showing how a wooden dreidel is made. It’s beautiful to see the wood on the lathe and Hebrew letters delicately hand painted on.

The other delightful display window is a life-size scene of menorah candles and oil being made, pre-industrialization. There’s also a monitor showing how olives are processed to make the oil.

In the store itself, is a cornucopia of kosher candies in all forms, including parve and milk, as well as Hanukah games (I couldn’t resist Texas Dreidel, a holiday version of Texas Hold ‘Em).

Located on Avenue M and East 16th Street in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn, Chanukah Super Store will remain open through the Hanukkah holiday. Hurry!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NYC Welcomes 50 Millionth Visitor

City dwellers often feel like tourists keep multiplying. It turns out that it is not just our imagination. Here is another blog from Jane, who would be happy to help tourists with directions.

There’s not a moment to spare in the city that never sleeps when there is so much to see and do. If you live or work in New York City or one of New York’s five boroughs, you know what it’s like to briskly walk down the streets of Manhattan and be inundated with foreign tourists staring and pointing in admiration of NYC’s highlights and sights. Sometimes it even makes us jaded New Yorkers see things in a new light.

Craig and Lucy Johnson from Lichfield, England specifically traveled to New York City to have their wedding ceremony at the Top of the Rock on December 20th. What they didn’t know was that their wedding day was going to be much more than a celebration of their unity and life together, but a milestone marker as the 49,999,999 and 50 millionth visitors to New York City. “We are thrilled to be in New York City with our closest friends and family celebrating our marriage,” said the newlyweds. “We traveled to New York City for the first time 10 years ago and it has always been our dream to return.”

If you’ve been planning that special trip out to New York City, now’s the time to book those plane tickets. It’s shaping up to be a comfortable winter, and there are several beautiful exhibitions and top-notch plays on and off-Broadway. Not to mention Spider Man the Musical. Whether you’re visiting for a short time or a longer vacation, be sure to make a point of stopping by the Museum of Jewish Heritage. We’re even open on several holidays including December 25, January 2, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents Day, too.

Thanks to NYC & Company and Mayor Bloomberg for the story and photo, and of course for all their efforts on behalf of tourism in New York.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Only in New York—Happy Hanukkah Edition

This story was told to us by Lisa, who didn’t have time to blog herself today.

As you may know, our busiest day of the year is December 25. With not much else open, we welcome lots of locals and tourists to the Museum for public programs, tours, and family friendly offerings. As we prepare for December 25th, we try to figure out how to make our visitors’ trip to the Museum as memorable as possible. One thing we like to do for our visitors is have a list of local restaurants which are open that day. So this week we called around to the usual suspects (Jewish delis, hotel restaurants, and Asian establishments) to inquire whether they would or would not be open and if so, which hours.

I was delighted and surprised when I called Budda Bodhai, a vegetarian Chinese eatery on Mott Street. After confirming that they are indeed open, my next question was whether they are kosher and if so, what is their certification. The genial Asian gentleman who answered the phone said, “Yes, we are kosher, Baruch HaShem!”

Only in New York.

We wish you all a Happy Hanukkah.

Photo from Budda Bodhai's website from the New York Times. Photo by James Estrin.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hanukkah Party Advice

Even Cinderella and Prince Charming got nervous before the big bash, so it makes sense that every year before the Young Friends Hanukkah party, Regina Roper fields all sorts of calls from potential party goers asking for advice and a little nudge. So we asked her to blog today about the party.

Looking to meet your beshert? Want to get your dance on? All while supporting a great cause? The Hanukkah Party is the place to be. Here are a few answers to some frequently asked questions and if you don’t see your question below, feel free to contact Regina at (646) 437-4320 or All calls are confidential.

What should I wear to the party?
The invitation says cocktail attire. That being said, wear whatever makes you feel good. Women mostly dress in cocktail dresses and heels, while the guys wear slacks and a button down. Some people come right from work so they are in suits or other business attire which is just fine. It is our gala event of the year, so dress to impress.

What is the age range of attendees?
The Young Friends are between the ages of 21 and 40. Our median age for attendees is probably somewhere around 30. However, there are always a handful of people on either side of the spectrum.

How many people come to the Hanukkah Party?
Last year we had a great crowd of almost 450 attendees.

What is the ratio of men to women?
As with most benefit events, there are always more women than men. We do our best to make sure there is a good mix and usually end up with about 60% women and 40% men.

What kind of food is served?
Each year we have an open bar and a full buffet spread (served by a Glatt Kosher certified caterer). This year the menu includes a latke bar, sliders and hot dogs, a variety of sandwiches and salads, desserts such as sufganiot and fruit, and much more.

Click here to buy your ticket now!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ways to Get Involved and Donate to Families in Need

This blog comes from our intern, Jane, who is excited to give back this season. I think you will agree that she makes a better case for it than this week’s episode of Glee.

Too many children and families aren’t able to share in the joy of opening gifts or have a festive home-cooked dinner with their family during the holidays. You can change this by donating new, unwrapped gifts to Toys for Tots, the wonderful organization run by the Marine Corps. We love seeing our children, siblings, and nieces and nephews excited about tearing the wrapping paper off of their gifts—now you can do the same for children whose parents can’t afford to do so. You can type in your zip code to find a local drop-off spot near you.

You can give the gift of warmth this winter by donating a gently-used coat to the New York Cares Coat Drive. To see a complete list of drop-off areas, click here.

As far as providing meals for children and families, you can volunteer your time at a community kitchen for the Food Bank For New York City by visiting the following link.

If you are unable to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, you can donate food as well.

Regardless of how and what you celebrate this year, we should take the time to remember and appreciate all the people in our lives that make everyday special and be grateful for what we have. The holidays aren’t about extravagance but about giving back to those in need and volunteering your time to help out a child or family.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hanukkah Goodies to Light Up Some Eyes

This blog comes from our new Communications intern, Jane Gogerman, who is clearly more organized and prepared for the holidays than the rest of us. We welcome her enthusiasm and look forward to putting it to very good use.

With Hanukkah in less than two weeks, you may be feeling like you’re pressed for time to find special gifts. Don’t fret, The Pickman Museum Shop has one-of-a-kind gifts sure to put a smile on the faces of those whom you love.

Your eager-to-learn son or daughter will love their new Friends of the World menorah ($40). Have them tell you something they know about each country as they light the menorah candle. As for your younger tot, I recommend the Melissa and Doug “Noah’s Ark Shape Sorter” set ($29). Teens may be a bit harder to please, but if you have a computer geek who’s eco-friendly, the LED Motherboard Menorah is perfect ($20)!

As a woman who loves dressing up her outfits with jewelry, my eyes are set on a unique pair of Michal Negrin’s blue flower earrings ($40 and up)that will surely complement several outfits. You can find an assortment of beautiful handcrafted jewelry in a variety of styles, shapes, designs and colors by Negrin and other talented designers at the shop.

Do you have a messy but loveable cook always in search of a pot holder and oven mitt? Now you can save them the stress of using their apron or that messy dish rag and surprise them with a menorah print mitt and matching pot holder. As a friendly tip, I recommend attaching two hooks, one near the stove and one by oven—now they will have their own spot ($5-7.50).

No matter who you are shopping for, you are destined to find the gift you are looking for and a welcome break from the mall traffic.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Your Typical Bat Mitzvah

Today is my 13th anniversary at the Museum of Jewish Heritage –A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. I arrived a tad late this morning to greetings of “Mazel Tov” and a spontaneous Bat Mitzvah-inspired Shirley Temple reception, as well as an early-morning e-mail from the founding director of the museum.

Having grown up in a small town, one of two Jewish girls in the high school, I did not have much of a Jewish identity in my early years. But since arriving at the Museum 13 years ago I have learned to appreciate the joys and sorrows of the Jewish people, from Biblical times to the present day. I love learning about laws of Kashrut, and asking my colleagues for alternative interpretations of Midrash.

When I went to the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim, Poland during Hanukkah 2007, I lit the gorgeous 19th century menorah and said the blessings before a concert. Saying the prayers in that special place, the synagogue that had been a munitions depot and a carpet warehouse and was now a reborn synagogue, commemorating the Maccabees' victory over their enemies and rededicating their temple gave me pause. Completely overwhelmed, I stepped outside after the candle lighting. Flashing before my eyes were images of Hanukkahs past: affixing candles to a plate when, as a child, we couldn’t afford a menorah; eating gelt too quickly and accidentally ingesting foil and chocolate; singing Hanukkah O Hanukkah over the phone with my old roommate as she celebrated with her children. All the years of feeling disconnected evaporated. I was sharing in the spirit and the joy of a holiday that has for years represented the unrelenting strength of the Jewish people, in a place that had been sacrificed and desecrated. On this last day of Hanukkah, I felt I was rededicating this temple and bearing witness for all the Jews of Oświęcim who had lit the candles decades prior to that moment.

That afternoon symbolizes what the Museum has instilled in me – a love of Jewish culture, history, and the people, especially the people I have gotten to know working here. Whether it is the particularly wise and charming survivors who have befriended me, or the life-long friendships I have developed with colleagues no longer here, but who stay in touch with Skype; or the gang downstairs who constantly teaches me new ways of thinking; or the folks down the hall who make it a joy to come to work each morning; or the gals with whom I share a commute to Brooklyn, or the new cast of characters I admire. It is an honor to work in a place that is so meaningful, emotional, and full of life.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Recipes Remembered: in Time for Hanukkah

This Sunday, December 11, we’re delighted to welcome cookbook author June Feiss Hersh, who will discuss her wildly popular book Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival with Saveur editor Gabriella Gershenson.

Recipes Remembered is a beautiful compilation of recipes from Holocaust survivors and refugees and their families who contributed their personal stories and dishes to the book. In advance of Hanukkah, we’d like to share Ruth Eggener’s lovely recipe for applesauce, which may help end the debate about whether to serve your latkes with sour cream or applesauce. Ruth was a young German Jew who was fortunate to leave Germany in 1934 for the United States with her family.

Ruth Eggener’s Chunky Applesauce

No excuse for ever buying jarred applesauce again. Crisp fresh apples and pure ingredients make homemade applesauce a no-brainer.

Yields: 3 cups; Start to Finish: Under 30 minutes
4 crisp apples (about 1 ½ to 2 pounds). Use at
least 2 different varieties (Macintosh, Golden
Delicious, Cortland) peeled, cored and cut into
bite-size pieces
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 to 2
cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for
20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting Ready for Hanukkah

This post comes from Sarah, our producer of public programs, who in her spare time hangs out with rock stars, actors, directors, and puppets. We're hoping she can introduce us to the Muppets at some point.

Just in time for Hanukkah, I was given the opportunity to produce a music video for Mama Doni, the Jewish indie rocker for kids, who is one of MJH's favorite family performers. A center piece of the video is our beautiful Edmond J. Safra Hall theater where we shot a few of the scenes and then created a smaller replica of the space to create a stop motion aspect of the video. The song featured in the music video is “The Legend of Sour Cream vs. Apple Sauce” from her album Chanukah Fever, which stars Mama Doni, The Sour Cream Divas, Mr. Apple Sauce Man, and a few puppets.

So watch the video and tell me which do you prefer, sour cream or apple sauce on your latkes?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Voices of Liberty – The Irish Version

To extend the reach of our Emma Lazarus exhibition, we are asking our fellow culturally ethnic arts institutions to blog about the immigration experience and how it affected their culture. Our friends at the Irish Arts Center, co-sponsors of tonight’s program with Lucette Lagnado and Malachy McCourt, have blogged about the Irish. But you will see, as with our Voices of Liberty soundscape, that certain experiences are universal.

The first half of the 20th century saw a new wave of immigrants from Ireland, many traveling alone to aunts, uncles, and distant cousins already settled in the U.S. Immigration in Ireland was often seen as an inevitability, a thing that “had to be done,” with few opportunities for employment to sustain the country’s population.

The quotes below, taken from recent interviews with Irish immigrants to the tri-state area for the Irish Arts Center’s photographic exhibition To Love Two Countries, captures a brief glimpse of the hopes, fears, and experiences faced by many. Though these individuals belong to a specific immigrant community, the themes discussed reflect a larger immigration experience: leaving one’s country of birth for the unknown, the desire to seek greater opportunity, and the need to make a new place, though an ocean apart from family and friends, feel like home.

“I came to NY on my own at the age of 20… The person who was originally meant to meet me off the boat never showed up. It was a neighbor's brother who then came and collected me to begin my life in New York. I had no expectations other than working hard and making a decent living.” Jimmy Clarke, b. 1906, arrived in U.S. in 1927 from County Galway

“You can love two countries – Ireland will always be the land of my dreams.” Sr. Geraldine Flannery, b. 1916, arrived in U.S. in 1939 from County Galway

“My mother always talked about the United States – America – the opportunities. I only intended to come for a short a time. But I got involved in Irish céilí music, met a lot of friends and for that I wouldn’t leave them or the music they were playing. I like the country very much.” Joe Cunningham, b. 1912, arrived in U.S. in 1929 from County Clare

“It was all new to me. I came out of a farm and I thought there would be nothing but concrete and houses. When I came here I thought I’d see no trees, no nothing, but it was very different than what I thought. It was beautiful.” Jerry O’Connor, b. 1923, arrived in U.S. in 1948 from County Limerick

Photo of Joe and Rose Cunningham

Friday, November 25, 2011

Working Mothers Work Hard Everywhere

On a recent trip to Thailand, Human Resources Director Tammy Chiu spent a day learning to be a Mahout (elephant caretaker) to Siam, a 45-year-old working mother of 3 expecting her fourth baby elephant. Tammy’s day of instruction included the care and feeding of her elephant, and how to guide Siam during a beautiful ride down to the river where she bathed and washed her. We're sure that Tammy was as helpful with figuring out a life/work balance for Siam as she is in assisting working moms at the Museum.

Photo: Tammy and Siam

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Road with Bonnie Gurewitsch

This post is from archivist and curator Bonnie Gurewitsch, who recently returned from a trip to Florida where she spoke to an audience of hundreds about Jewish refugee scholars teaching at black colleges.

I was invited to be part of the Diversity Initiative event that is sponsored by Dan and Litten Boxser at Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota, Florida. The event was planned in connection with our traveling exhibition, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, which recently opened at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. The diversity event was designed to create interest in the exhibition, and to give those who could not get to the Museum a chance to learn the story and be inspired by it.

In my presentation, I told the outline of the story and illustrated it with images from the exhibition as well as the films created by Pacific Street Films for the exhibition. I told some specific stories that added context to the images, such as why Lore Rasmussen took her students on a field trip to pick cotton, or why John Biggers chose to paint "The Gleaners" in Viktor Lowenfeld's class. The audience, featuring people of all ages and backgrounds, was rapt, totally engrossed in the story. Most people had never heard of the refugee scholars and their roles at the black colleges.

Musical renditions by the synagogue's cantor and the Gulf Coast Community Choir, a diverse group, were pleasant and entertaining, adding to the ambience of diversity and community. The program was very well received, and people stayed long afterwards, enjoying refreshments together.

Photo of Joyce Ladner and Bonnie Gurewitsch

Monday, November 21, 2011

Answering the Question “What do you do?”

This post is from our colleague Thorin Tritter, who is the Managing Director of FASPE, a graduate-level program that teaches contemporary ethics through the examination of the role of specific professions during the Holocaust. He also has a great sense of humor, but that is not on display, for obvious reasons, in the post below.

I am new to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and have been struggling with how to introduce myself to new acquaintances without coming across as too depressing. I direct a program, called FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics), that takes graduate students in professional schools to Europe where they learn about the role of their chosen professions in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and then use that historic framework to explore contemporary ethics.

I am proud of the program, but the fact is I work on an ugly aspect of world history and spend my time studying and teaching about a very dark time. At a recent cocktail party in my town, I felt my answer to the common question “What do you do?” appeared to cast a black shadow over me. The more common responses of “lawyer,” “banker,” or “sales” might not yield exciting conversation, but they rarely seemed to cast a pall over the party like “Holocaust.” I tried out some other answers, like the vague “I’m a historian” or “I work at a museum,” but there was inevitably a follow-up question that led to my using the word “Holocaust.”

In my nervousness, I made vague attempts at humor, and they were just that: awkward attempts that left my companions even more perplexed. Now despite the topic of my work, I see myself as a relatively upbeat and happy person. The darkness of the Holocaust does not fit my personality – (does it fit anyone’s personality)? What to do? Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

Please post your suggestions and help Thorin out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holocaust and Genocide Education Conference Takes Place This Weekend

On Sunday, Nov. 19 and Monday, Nov. 20, leading international scholars, including Dalia Rabin and Special Envoy to the US State Department, Hannah Rosenthal, will come together to look at the past 60 years of Holocaust education in Europe and the US. This conference, "Messaging to Remember: The Past and Future of Holocaust and Genocide Education," aims to recognize that Holocaust education in the past often relied on survivors. As time goes on and survivors pass away, educators now need to ask the question of how to engage youth in caring about the tragedy of the Holocaust. The conference will develop new methods, media, and tools for helping future generations appreciate the magnitude of this and other genocides.

Panels will focus on the different dimensions of transmission of the history of the Holocaust and will consider the incorporation of print, radio, photography, film, YouTube, and the Internet into education about the Shoah. Other more recent genocides will also be examined and considered for their impact on the future of Holocaust remembrance and education.

The conference concludes with a screening of the award-winning film: Auf Wiedersehen, Til We Meet Again with an introduction by Martin Lipton at 5:45 p.m. A post-screening discussion will feature filmmakers Linda G. Mills and Peter Goodrich, as well as Dalia Rabin and Hannah Rosenthal. The conference takes place right here at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Lower Manhattan and is free, but registration is required. For more information, please contact Danielle Emery at

Co-sponsors of the two-day event are The Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University; Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust; Law and Humanities Institute; NYU Center on Violence and Recovery; NYU Silver School of Social Work; and The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU.

All details can be found at If you cannot attend in person, there will be a live stream on the conference website.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Emma Lazarus, Behind-the-Scenes with the Curator

Now that Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles is up and running, we took the time to catch up with the exhibit's curator, the intrepid Melissa Martens, who answered some of our Emma-related questions.

Q: What first interested you in Emma Lazarus?

A: Emma Lazarus is one of the most famous women in American-Jewish history, yet most people only know her for her few lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . .” Her complex body of work and her life story encompass so much more.

Q: How long did you work on the exhibition?

A: The exhibition took about fourteen months to bring to life. Much of that work was in assembling the greatest constellation of artifacts ever brought together on Emma Lazarus and her influences.

Q: What do you wish most people knew about Emma?

A: That she was a deep and thoughtful writer, and that her vision was inspired by Sephardic-American Jewry, German-Jewish immigrants, Eastern-European immigrants, and other newcomers to America.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned through researching Emma’s life?

A: That she was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was influenced by artists such as William Morris.

Q: What is your favorite artifact in the exhibition?

A: A manuscript of the Sonnet, penned by Emma Lazarus before her untimely death.

Q: What do you hope visitors will take away from Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles?

A: That freedom and liberty are not just gifts we have inherited, but contemporary challenges for us to live up to.

Photo: Melissa at the exhibition opening. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Honoring Holocaust Survivors and Their Families

This year's Generation to Generation dinner honored Holocaust survivor Sol Rosenkranz, who brings an extraordinary warmth and dignity to everything he does. Mazel Tov to Sol and his family.

Sol (left) with his friend and cousin Harry Prus.

Daughter Rita Rosenkranz, son Joel Rosenkranz, Joel’s wife Janis, Sol Rosenkranz, cousin Harry Prus, and Sol’s son Mel Rosenkranz.

Photos by Melanie Einzig.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sure, It Gets Dark Earlier, But Now We See Sunsets Like These

Sunset over New York Harbor from the Museum offices on Monday, Nov. 14. We like to call this view one of the non-economic benefits of working at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Special Announcement for Kristallnacht

While we commemorate the Holocaust every day at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, there are certain days on the calendar that have particular resonance. One of those days is Kristallnacht, a wave of organized violent attacks in Germany and Austria against Jews, Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses that started on November 9 in 1938.

To mark the anniversary, this year we are announcing the addition of a very important resource to the Museum’s holdings.

Starting today, the Museum will be the only public institution in New York where visitors can access video testimonies from Holocaust survivors and other witnesses collected by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute which was established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

The Museum’s resource center will have 2,500 testimonies available from several countries in multiple languages. The interviewees include Holocaust survivors, rescuers, and liberators. Survivors of many religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are represented including Jews, Roma and Sinti survivors, political prisoners, and homosexuals.

For more information regarding this free resource, please call 646.437.4290. In the meantime,please visit the USC Shoah Foundation Institute's website to watch testimony from survivors of Kristallnacht.

Image from our collection:

Image of the destruction done to the family home of Henry Bauer in Mannheim, Germany on Kristallnacht. On Kristallnacht, Bauer’s father was arrested and many of his family’s belongings were destroyed. Bauer took these photographs to record the damage done to his home.

Bauer immigrated to London in 1939 and then to the US in 1940, where he settled in New York.

Gift of Henry Bauer in memory of Irma, Ludwig and Werner Bauer

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Couple Ties Knot at MJH

When we announced that weddings were welcome at the Museum, we had a feeling that people who choose to be married here would find special meaning in our mission and our location. We just received a lovely photo and a wonderful e-mail from “our” bride from this past Sunday, who wrote:

We chose the Museum of Jewish Heritage simply because it represents everything we wanted our wedding to be: a celebration of the past, present, and future. The elegance of the building, the generosity of its staff, and the importance of its mission wove itself seamlessly into our day. For all of these reasons and more, we immediately thought of the museum as the perfect spot for our wedding. And it was.

We say Mazel Tov! to EY and Ira, and look forward to the day when they bring their children and grandchildren to visit the site of their nuptials.

Photo by Meg Baker

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

125 Years of Liberty

Friday, as I waited to get on the Liberty Island boat with Melissa, Betsy, Lisa, David, and Dr. Ruth, I was thinking of my maternal grandmother, Pearl Makiesky Leavitt, who passed through Ellis Island at the age of 12. She spent six months in New York City and it became a point of pride that she hated every minute she spent here. She never spoke of her experience in the city, but the fact that three of her grandchildren and five of her great-grandchildren make the city home makes me smile.

Prior to our arrival on the island, 125 new American citizens were sworn in. Having hosted “swearing ins” in the past, we all agreed how nice it was to be a guest at these festivities. Alice, who rode over on the VIP boat with Sigourney Weaver and her guests, saved us seats. Ms. Weaver read Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” and we unanimously agreed that it was a stellar interpretation, making us think of the poem in a brand new way.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar quoted from President Grover Cleveland’s speech given on the occasion of Liberty’s arrival in the harbor, and he shared with us that at that celebration, suffragists watched the event from a boat, because unescorted women were not allowed to attend. “We have come a long way,” said Sec. Salazar, “but we recognize we have a long way to go.”

There were various musical offerings throughout the morning, including the French National Anthem, performances by Michael Feinstein, a gorgeous rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Carpathia Jenkins, and the West Point Glee Club performing “America the Beautiful,” including that line from the little-known but powerful fourth verse: O beautiful for patriot dream/That sees beyond the years/Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears! The National Park Service has launched Torch Cams while the statue is under renovation. Check them out.

Following the ceremony, we had just enough time to visit the gift shop where Melissa purchased nifty light up torches and I took her picture in the diorama of Frederic Bartholdi’s studio.

We felt fortunate for so many reasons that day. We were unescorted women able to enjoy the freedoms denied our ancestors; our boat ride lasted 30 minutes, not months; and we work in a museum where we are reminded that liberty is a work in progress.

Photo of the Statue of Liberty from the water.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There’s a New Deputy in Town

Welcome Anita Kassof, our new Deputy Director, who began Tuesday at the Museum. She has kept busy for the past two days meeting staff, donors, and trustees; attending no fewer than 11 meetings, the opening of Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles, and dinner at the home of our trustee Ingeborg Rennert.

Anita joins us from the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM), where she worked for the past decade as associate director, sharing management responsibility for all Museum departments and activities as well as developing exhibitions. Here she will oversee the program areas of the Museum, specifically Collections and Exhibitions, Education, and Public Programs.

During her tenure in Baltimore, she served as co-curator of The Synagogue Speaks and Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, for which she also co-edited the exhibition catalog. She also curated Lives Lost, Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945, edited the accompanying catalog, and produced an award-winning exhibition DVD. She has authored several publications, including Lights & Shadows, a memoir of Holocaust refugee Arnold Fleischmann, and The Synagogue Speaks, a children’s book based on the exhibition of the same name. (It's available in the Pickman Museum Shop.)

Prior to her service at the JMM, Anita served as the associate curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) from 1988-2000, where she helped to develop the Museum’s collections policy and build the Museum’s permanent collection of Holocaust artifacts, documents, and photographs. At the USHMM, she was the associate curator of Assignment Rescue, the Story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee, the inaugural temporary exhibition, which subsequently traveled nationally, and co-authored Flight and Rescue, which chronicled the flight of Polish Jews to Japan and Shanghai.

We are delighted to welcome her to the Museum, and look forward to working with her, learning from her, and attending meetings galore with her in the years to come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What do you get the girl who has everything for her 125th birthday?

Did you ever wish you could get up close and personal to the Statue of Liberty without waiting in line with the tourists, climbing lots of stairs, or leaving the comforts of your own home? In honor of the Lady of the Harbor’s 125th birthday, The National Park Service just installed 5 Torch cams, that allow you to do just that, and much more. According to the president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, it is the first time since 1916 that the public will be able to enjoy the views from the torch. The cameras will be on 24 hours a day for visitors around the world to view starting on Friday. Read the full Associated Press story.

Image by EarthCam.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Bounty of Programs this Fall

This blog is by Gabriel Sanders, who would like to entice you to put down the hot cider or pumpkin latte and head to the Museum for some fantastic programming. Here is just a sampling of what's in store for the rest of the fall and for the early winter.

After the relative quiet of holiday-rich October, we begin November with back to back blockbusters.

On the 6th, in connection with our ongoing exhibition Deadly Medicine, we will host an afternoon with cultural historian Sander Gilman, an authority on the field of Nazi science, and medical ethicist Arthur Caplan. After their compelling talks, they’ll engage in a discussion moderated by Museum Director David G. Marwell, who has fascinating professional insight himself, having been very involved in the search for the notorious Nazi Josef Mengele.

The very next night, in collaboration with the Primo Levi Center, we will offer a staged reading starring John Turturro devoted to the great Italian author’s scientific works.

Next Wednesday, just in time for the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday, we’ll be opening the exhibition Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles. The poet is in many ways the guiding spirit of our programming for the rest of the year, as themes related to immigration and the Statue recur in program after program.

A November 30 discussion will encompass two very different stories of immigration. The Wall Street Journal’s Lucette Lagnado, author of the bestselling 2007 memoir The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, will discuss her follow-up effort, The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn, with fellow memoirist and master raconteur Malachy McCourt.

On December 11, June Feiss Hersh will discuss her bestselling cookbook Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival with Gabriella Gershenson of Saveur magazine.

In 1876, Emma Lazarus, published a story based on the life the Book of Esther’s Vashti, Ahasuerus’ banished queen. Like Lazarus, the poet and songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins has drawn inspiration from some of the Bible’s more rowdy heroines. On December 21, Rabins’ band, Girls in Trouble, will celebrate both Hanukkah and Emma Lazarus, a rabble-rouser herself.

Yes, the Statue’s golden door may be closing for renovation later this month, but on December 25, she—or at least versions of her that have appeared in film—will be lifting a lamp for all to see. Join us for Hitchcock’s 1942 thriller Saboteur, the animated classic An American Tail, and, perhaps Lady Liberty’s biggest role ever, Ghostbusters II.

The mercury may be dropping, but inside Edmond J. Safra Hall the temperature is always pleasant.

Give us your huddled masses!

Image: An American Tail. Courtesy of Swank Motion Pictures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Inspiring Fall Flowers

This blog comes from our gardening beat reporter and photographer, Keika.

Fall is here, and everyone has their own way of celebrating this season and the harvest festival of Sukkot. You can either seek a sukkah near you (see previous blog entry) or you can check out the Fall Flowers of Japan at the New York Botanical Gardens (on view through October 30). I went to see it this past weekend and was deeply inspired by the beautiful and intricate displays of Japanese chrysanthemums, or kiku. I was especially amazed by the ozukuri, a display of hundreds of flowers all grown from a single stem (seen in photo), which can take up to 11 months to create. The attention-to-detail and execution are unparalleled. The show also features the ogiku, a single or triple stem display, and the kengai, a display of cascading flowers. I was so moved by these exquisite flowers that I went back to see them a second and third time. If you are looking for some inspiration this season, or a place of tranquility, I highly recommend seeing this show.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Desperately Seeking Sukkahs

Although the temperature is balmy, and barely a leaf has turned, it really is time for the harvest festival of Sukkot. As a public service, Paul and his intern Lily have done some investigating of neighborhood sukkahs. Although we are closed Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday in observance of Sukkot, you may be nearby or when you return to work you, too, may be seeking a sukkah.

But first a word about the holiday. The word sukkot itself means “booths” and gives significance to the type of dwelling inhabited by the Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years. If you enjoyed sleeping in your backyard as a kid, think how nice it is to do it as an adult. While you can honor the holiday by eating meals in the sukkah, if you are so inclined and you are feeling spry, spend as much time as you can in it. The sukkah is decorated festively and has two halachic architectural demands: it must have at least 2.5 sides and a roof that provides more shade than sun in the day and a view of the stars at night. And just to make things really interesting, the roof must be constructed from materials that grew out of the ground, but are no longer attached to the ground. Last year, Reboot sponsored Sukkah City in Union Square Park, which called upon designers and architects to create sukkahs of drama and usability. Take a look.

Back to the present. Preliminary research indicates the following downtown possibilities:
1. Near the flagpole in Battery Park; historically the sukkah is set up by Chabad
2. On the roof of 160 Broadway, for the use of the Broadway Café customers
3. In front of Pita Express at 16 Ann Street (east of Broadway)
4. At the Wall Street Synagogue, 47 Beekman Place (near William Street)

Disclaimer: We list these sukkah sites as a public service, but we are not affiliated with any of them.

Chag Sameach

Photo: Sukkah at Foehrenwald DP camp, 1946. Gift of Evelyn Cohen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Walk in Emma’s Footsteps

If you have a fancy phone and a comfy set of shoes, we have some really good news for you. The Museum has created a free mobile walking tour of Emma Lazarus’ New York, which will complement our upcoming exhibit about all things Emma. The tour of Gilded Age New York is narrated by Julianna Margulies (whom we wish a hearty Mazel Tov on her recent Emmy), and features a reading of Emma's famous poem“The New Colossus,” by Meryl Streep. The mobile tour features 19 former and current historic sites that shaped Emma’s experience and legacy including her homes and her literary and artistic haunts. For instance, see this photo of Union Square in 1853. Doesn't it look different without the dog run, skateboards, and farmers' market?

The application is a GPS-enabled tour and map that consists of annotated historic tour sites, a slide show, and audio commentary featuring experts in the field of Jewish history, art history, and the history of the Statue of Liberty. The downloadable tour is available for iPhone and Android.

Union Square, looking south in 1853. Courtesy the Picture Collection, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Street Scene

This blog comes from Sarah Wolff, our Producer of Public Programs, who recently stepped outside of her role at the Museum to produce, The Love Letter You’ve Been Meaning to Write New York, a new-media street theater piece around the corner from here that has a lot of critics and neighbors talking.

Directed and conceived by Jonathan Solari, the play features a cast of more than 40 who perform right on Greenwich Street. The audience sits inside the theater and face out the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the street. The play follows the story of a young man who has gone through hard times in the city and has decided to leave New York for good. However, strange encounters on Greenwich Street may influence him to stay. Part of the charm of the work and part of the danger is that we can’t block off the street, which enviably leads to the biggest variable in our piece, cars driving through and people walking by.

The cast is truly a composite of New York City, filled with dancers, actors, musicians and people from all walks of life. The show combines video, large scale dance numbers, puppetry, live music, and scripted performance. The event has become a part of the downtown community, so much so, that the local NYPD have nightly drive bys where they like to give the audience a thumbs-up or turn their lights and sirens on to give the cast a laugh!

As we enter our last two weeks of the run, I can now say that I have fallen in love with New York all over again. This play shows how a simple act can change someone’s life and I personally get excited to see what happens every night. I love to see who is going to walk by and choose to interact with us, or whether it will rain and the cast will join together and share umbrellas or simply choose dance in the rain together.

To see some of our cast talk about their favorite moments head to our Facebook page here!

The Love Letter You’ve Been Meaning To Write New York runs through Oct. 16 at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich St. (at Rector St.), 212-352-3101; www.TheLoveLetterYou’

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Praise of the American Folk Art Museum

Like many of you, I was saddened to hear of the financial troubles of the American Folk Art Museum. I’ve seen some wonderful exhibitions there of outsider art, art by women, and Americana, but my favorite exhibition was one that relates very much to our own mission. Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, which was on view in 2007 and 2008, traced the journey of Jewish woodcarvers from Eastern and Central Europe to America through their beautiful secular and sacred works. While I’ve always loved carousel horses, I now have a special appreciation because I know that the carousel animals were a testament to a history of survival and transformation for immigrant Jewish artists who transferred symbolic visual elements into a beloved American icon that brings joy to so many people.

I thank the American Folk Art Museum for sharing this and so many other stories with us over the years and I urge you to go and visit. It is free, although donations are gratefully accepted and very much needed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

For New Parents and Babies Living Downtown

You know that moment as a new parent when you realize you’ve been wearing the same sweatpants for at least 30 hours, which aren’t the fancy designer kind, but the kind that are really only for sleeping and lounging, not that you have that luxury? You also realize you are in desperate need for an adult conversation and copious amounts of caffeine and to find other parents going through the same thing? Having a baby can be overwhelming and isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Starting this Sunday, new and expectant parents living Downtown are invited to bring their babies for a new Sunday morning series at the Museum. Coffee and bagels are included and sweatpants are welcome. We won’t judge.

New Families, New Traditions is designed to create a welcoming space for Downtown Jewish and interfaith parents to share their experiences, create a community, and learn from experts. While children enjoy themselves in a safe play area within the room, or snooze in the stroller, moms and dads can chat over bagels and coffee and explore a range of topics that befuddle new parents, such as sleep (or lack thereof) and how to create an eco-friendly home. All families are welcome. Tickets are $10 per family per program and include a light bagel brunch. (Did we mention the coffee?)

Space is limited and pre-registration is preferred, but if you find yourself free at the last minute, stop by. (, 646-437-4300). The museum is located in Battery Park City at 36 Battery Place. For more information, visit

The first program is:

October 2, 11 a.m.

Sleep deprived? A sleep coach from Dream Team Baby teaches the latest tips for helping your infant or toddler nap and sleep through the night. Dream Team Baby has been featured on NBC’s “Today Show" (watch the video) and has a column on The Bump.

If you have chatted with friends who have older babies, you probably know at least one person who paid a ton of money for a one-on-one session with a sleep coach. They also said it was worth every penny and maybe even saved their marriage or their career. Before you go that route, come this Sunday with your toughest questions.
Stay tuned for information about our Green Babies and December Dilemma programs, or visit us online:

Spring events will be announced at a later date.

"New Families, New Traditions" is funded through generous support from the UJA-Federation of New York. Additional support is provided by the Margaret Neubart Foundation Trust.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting Ready for the New Year

It’s that time of year again, when we crack open the cookbooks and figure out how to celebrate the New Year and what to feed your loved ones. Whether you like to nosh on honey cake, or apple cake, or prefer your kugel sweet or savory, you are going to need a winning main course that can anchor the rest of the meal. I’d like to suggest the following recipe from June Feiss Hersh’s wonderful Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival. The book is chock full of moving stories from Holocaust survivors and their families, but I also have to say that June writes the recipes that are very easy to follow whether you are a beginner or a balabusta.

Shana Tova from our homes to yours!

Lilly Kaplan’s Chicken Paprikash
This authentic Hungarian specialty features plenty of paprika, which lends a rich red color and subtle spicy flavor to this popular chicken dish. While Lilly uses sweet paprika, for an extra jolt of flavor, add a teaspoon of cayenne or smoked paprika.

Yields: 4 servings, Start to Finish: Under 2 hours

2 medium onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds chicken parts, on the bone,
skin removed
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup white wine
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Kosher salt and pepper
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan, cook and stir the onions and garlic, over medium heat, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. In the same pan (adding more oil if needed), brown the chicken pieces in batches and set aside on a plate. When all the
chicken is browned, add the chicken (not the juice that has collected), onions and garlic back into the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth, white wine, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Top with the green pepper slices.

Simmer, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and bring the sauce to a slow boil. If the sauce is too thin, thicken it by creating a roux. In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil and then blend in 2 teaspoons of flour, stirring constantly to avoid burning the roux. You’ll want it to be a light blonde color. Let the roux cool a bit,and then stir it into the sauce, cook for several minutes to let it do its thing. If the sauce is still not thick enough, repeat the above process. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with noodles or dumplings. See Greta Margolis’ dumpling recipe (see page 274 of Recipes Remembered) or homemade noodles (see page 30of the cookbook).

Paprika can be hot, sweet, and several degrees in between. Look for pure Hungarian paprika, it’s worth the difference. And be sure never to add paprika directly into a dry pan, it will burn quickly as it releases its natural sugar

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Downtown's Newest Memorial

I went to visit the National 9/11 Memorial with my husband on Wednesday. It was a hazy day, yet the reflection of the sun on the granite, the water, and the glass made it warmer and brighter than it really was. Or maybe it was the aura of the place.

It is a truly beautiful and elegant memorial. The sheets of water mask all other ambient noise, not so easy to do when standing along the West Side Highway. The typeface used on the parapet is a classic serif font called Optima, created by Hermann Zapf. You will recognize it from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is dignified and solemn and entirely appropriate.

My husband, as a volunteer at Tribute, has gotten to know a lot of mothers who lost their sons on Sept. 11. He printed out the locations of their names in advance from the website (although you can also do it at kiosks on the plaza) and we went to visit them, tenderly sweeping our hands over their names. The metal was surprisingly cool to the touch.

When we walked from the South Pool to the North Pool, a gentle breeze picked up and blew water toward us. Seeing the calm water under the parapet flow into its forceful rush to the bottom and then complete its deliberate descent into nothingness reminded me of nothing less than a visual representation of grief. I don’t mean the literal stages of grief as articulated by Elizabeth Kübler Ross, I mean simply that grief at various times in our lives can be a quiet moment of reflection, or hot angry tears, or sometimes it recedes, slipping below the surface only to reappear on anniversaries or birthdays.

I am not the only one to draw this conclusion. Colleague David W. Dunlap, when writing about the testing of the waterfalls in the May 12, 2005 New York Times, wrote: “Rather, they were more like beaded curtains, with a striation that called to mind the vertical bands of the twin tower facades, dissolving in a cascade of tears.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Overheard in the Gallery (Well, Really, in the Lobby)

Eleven people showed up for our weekly guided tour of the Core Exhibition. Since reservations are not necessary, we’re never sure who might be here. Today’s guests included 4 folks from Denmark, 2 from Belfast, 2 from Walnut Creek, Calif., and 3 additional Californians from undisclosed locations. One of the visitors from Denmark told us that he had no idea what he was about to see but came on the recommendation of a friend who said that our Museum was one of five MUST-SEES in NYC. We’re right up there with Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge! To our new Danish friends we say: tak så meget!

Monday, September 12, 2011

In the Movies: The Debt

While I am not a film critic or historian, I want to recommend The Debt, a gripping film that I caught over the weekend. Billed as an espionage thriller, the story begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by Israel because of the secret mission that they embarked on for their country back in 1965-1966, when their younger selves (Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a Mengele-like character known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, in East Berlin.

What could have been a pulpy revenge tale is actually refreshingly complex and rich with moral ambiguity and strong multi-dimensional Jewish characters. Without giving any of the twists and turns away, I think the most powerful moments took place when the Mossad agents were holding Vogel captive. While Rachel and David are revealed to have lost their families during the Holocaust, they are seen feeding and shaving Vogel with care and treating him like a human being. As David says, “Remember who we are and who we are not.”

Despite everything, at that moment they just want justice for their families and for Israel, and will not let the monster inside of Vogel infect them. I could tell you more, but I'd rather you see the film yourself for the superb acting and for the compelling story. View the trailer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let's Give a Hand to Community Board 1

Our friends at Community Board 1 have a very meaningful Saturday planned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11. On September 10th at 8:46am, thousands of people will grasp hands to form a human chain along the waterfront from the tip of Lower Manhattan heading north. There will also be a Wall of Remembrance in historic Battery Park where you can post a message or memento. The 9/11 Memorial Museum will keep a portion of this wall for display for years to come. In addition, downtown non-profits will be hosting special community service projects throughout the neighborhood, and you are invited to get involved and volunteer in the community. Participation in the event is free and open to all, but you must pre-register through the website at You can learn about the service projects on the site as well.

According to the Downtown Alliance, it will be a great challenge to get around Lower Manhattan on Sunday, so treat yourself to a slightly more mellow day of reflection on Saturday.

If you do find yourself downtown on Sunday, however, please visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Admission is free all day and you are invited to visit the Yahrzeit installation and look out at the Statue of Liberty to contemplate freedom and liberty and how valuable they are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ambassador for Good

A news release passed by my desk last month and I made a note to save it for this week. The release announces that our own Auschwitz Jewish Center coordinator Dara Bramson has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will be leaving on Monday night to begin her scholarship abroad in Poland. Dara is one of more than 1,600 U.S. citizens chosen for the 2011-2012 academic year.

I was not aware of the history of the Fulbright program until I read that it was created in 1946 by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

Dara, who is studying anthropology at Columbia University, joins the ranks of author Gish Jen, architect Daniel Libeskind, soprano Renee Fleming, and 2002 Nobel Laureate Riccardo Giacconi. No pressure, Dara.

The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Since 1946, approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists have been given the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

We wish Dara the best of luck and look forward to working with her in this new capacity.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yahrzeit: September 11 Remembered

Earlier this year we were discussing the appropriate way to observe the 10th anniversary of September 11. We were torn, frankly, because we felt that now that there was a national memorial to commemorate the terror attacks, we didn’t need to add grand gestures. And that is still true, but at a certain point in the spring we determined that we needed to do something for our community.

We created a poignant exhibition for the one year anniversary, curated by Jill Vexler and Ivy Barsky that examined how the anniversary of a death was observed in Judaism. The anniversary of a death is called yahrzeit. The exhibition looked at Jewish responses to the attacks, how Jewish rituals, both joyful and mournful, were observed during that time, and we looked at how the Museum responded.

Remembering how moving that exhibition had been, and noting that our intimate Rotunda Gallery was going to be available in the fall, we agreed that we would create a small contemplative space to allow people to reflect and remember. We re-purposed some of the artifacts from the first exhibition, like an amazing photo taken by the NYPD Aviation Unit moments before the Museum was enveloped by smoke, and Beth Din documents affirming a determination of death.

But there are additions that show the passage of time as well. There is a program from the 2006 dedication of a Torah scroll commissioned in memory of Andrew Steven Zucker, who was last seen on the 85th floor of 2 WTC making a sweep to get colleagues out. His son, Jason Andrew, was born five months after the attacks.

There are quotes from participants in Columbia University’s Center for Oral History 9/11 Narrative and Memory project, including some from former staff members and from Holocaust survivor Frederick Terna. And there is a quote from New York Times reporter David W. Dunlap who described our Robert M. Morgenthau Wing as the …”first significant expression of the cultural rebirth of Lower Manhattan since the attack on New York.” The quote appeared in an article Sept. 12, 2003.

Ilona Moradof led the project team ably and sensitively, and designer Trevor Messersmith created a very warm and inviting space for visitors. The exhibition is on view through Oct. 12.

Graphic based on a photograph by Peter Goldberg.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What We're Reading Now - Sarah's Key

Like any other book club, the Museum’s staff book club is often intrigued by what other people are reading. Once they know about the book club, board members, gallery educators, and other staff members who like to read but don’t like “organized” reading suggest books and sometimes even insist that we read them. For example, Nancy Fisher, who is both a Trustee and a gallery educator, is one of our go-to book critics. She tends to read books well before the professional reviewers. If she says to read something, we highly recommend that you do.

Sarah’s Key is one of those books that we have heard a lot about, so this month that is our choice. Working at a museum that teaches about the Holocaust, we all read a lot of important and powerful fiction and non-fiction books, but I must say that this one is especially absorbing and impossible to put down. Is it historically accurate, well written, or emotionally overwrought? How does the film stand up to the book? Pick up a copy at the Pickman Museum Shop and read along with us and join the conversation. Or, if you have already read it or seen the movie, let us know what you think, but please, don’t ruin the end for those who haven’t finished it yet. Suggestions for future discussions are also welcome.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Visitors are Welcome!

Since our last visitor did not make as much of a mess as we feared, we are open and welcoming visitors. In fact, our first pair of guests arrived at 10:05 this morning.

The first floor of the Core Exhibition is still closed, but the second and third floor of the Core are open. The Morgenthaus: A Legacy of Service is open, and yesterday was going to be the official opening of Yahrzeit: September 11 Remembered, so be the first to see it. Installed during an earthquake and a hurricane, it is the little exhibition that could.

And our Garden of Stones made it through the storm and is especially lovely on this cloudless day. Have a cup of tea in the cafe and reflect on how fortunate we all are.

Hope to see you soon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm

Considering the amount of activity that has taken place inside the Museum today, I would have to say that the phrase “the calm before the storm” is an absurd statement. The staff has spent the past four-and-a-half hours de-installing artifacts from the first floor. Today is one of those “other duties as assigned” kinds of days. As Gabe took a torah from its case, the torah that was supposed to be in the Nazi Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race, he found the act of safeguarding the torah to have incredible poignancy. Caroline and I took the wedding dress on its mount from the first floor to the prep room. I noticed that the groom’s kittel was kept in a separate area. Ever the modest pair, our little couple.

Erica B, Melissa, Ilona, Alice, and Indra were our Collections and Exhibitions staff here today, and Suzanne, Jackie, Lisa, and Trevor stepped in to provide assistance. We were also joined by former staff Matt P. and Andy to help open the cases and remove artifacts. Lisa maintained her Communications role by taking pictures.

Mike, John, Frank, Scottie, and Nelson and the rest of the Operations gang sandbagged, covered the library in plastic, moved security equipment, moved crates and cases, and continue to preserve the safety of our building.

Matt S., Sarah, and Kim wrapped up the Fazioli piano and moved the stage’s curtain.

Dara, Chris, Bonnie, Paul, and Tracy packed up the Resource Center; Warren packed up the Shop with the help of Paula, Jessica, William, and Suzanne.
David K and Alex shut down, unplugged, took offline, and removed all of our computers from the first floor that handle everything from the AV system in classrooms to the ticketing system at the front desk.

George kept answering the phones telling people we were closed.

David M. kept us all focused on this important work even while contemplating his own evacuation from Lower Manhattan.

And these are just the activities I saw with my own eyes.

And now that the Mayor has declared a mandatory evacuation of Battery Park City and other coastal communities, we will soon leave the building, say the Tefilat HaDerech (the prayer for safe journey) and join our families and friends to ride out the storm.

Be safe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Now on TV

This blog comes from Abby and Lisa who both "lobbied" for years for this development.
Yesterday the welcome screens generously donated by the Gallery Educator Friends of the Museum Fund made their debut in the Museum’s lobby. The screens engagingly convey information about the Museum’s exhibitions and programs, as well as give the lobby a sophisticated appearance. The added benefit of these attractive screens is that money no longer needs to be spent on printing signs whenever an exhibition changes. It has taken us eight years to complete the signage program for the lobby, and it would not have happened without the support of the Gallery Educator Friends of the Museum. As Abby says, "We are thrilled with these marvelous additions to the lobby.”

This project is also an excellent model of inter-departmental cooperation, involving Operations, Communications, IT, Education, and Development. Cheers to all!

Before and after photos by Lisa.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Waiting to Exhale

Yesterday’s New York Times ran a review of Rebirth, a film about grief and recovery after Sept. 11. We were fortunate to have a screening of this documentary at the Museum in December, before the Project Rebirth team took it to Sundance. While viewing this film with 373 complete strangers I noticed we had one thing in common. Not a single one of us exhaled during the movie.

From early 2002 through 2009, the Rebirth film crew chronicled the lives of five people directly affected by 9/11. The participants include a survivor from an impact floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC); a firefighter who survived the collapse of the WTC but lost his best friend; a high school student who lost his mother; a young woman who lost her fiancé; and a construction worker who lost his brother, assisted with recovery efforts, and is presently helping to rebuild the site.

The themes of grief, healing, and recovery which, in this context, are associated most closely with September 11, are universal. How do you get past the anger when a loved one has died? How do you live with survivor guilt? How do you keep a family together or feel safe enough to start a new one? These are questions that plague survivors in general, and especially survivors of a shared trauma. We know many Holocaust survivors who lost spouses and children during the war and then created new families in the aftermath. These particular moments in the film teach us how to hold on to our humanity in the face of such sadness.

Interspersed between the interviews there is time-lapse footage of the rebuilding at the World Trade Center site. It is tangible evidence that during period progress took place, even if it was not visible to casual observer. As I walk to the Museum from the R train at Whitehall each morning, I look down Greenwich and smile at the new One World Trade Center rising in the sky. It reminds me there is hope for the future.

Photo of MJH and the new One World Trade Center by Andreas Eymannsberger.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Can Help Honor Jewish Partisans

One of the questions our curators, historians, and educators are asked often is why Jews didn’t fight back during the Holocaust. To answer that question and honor the brave men and women who took up arms or fought back with other actions, we opened an exhibit in 2007 called Daring to Resist: Jewish Defiance in the Holocaust. Now it is your turn to help recognize these individuals.

Our colleagues at the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF) are currently working diligently to expand their database of partisans and partisan families, and to this end are reaching out to the community to help locate individuals.
Scott Polach, the Partisan Family Liaison, writes:

Speaking with living partisans, whose numbers are unfortunately dwindling, is an important part of our work in keeping the legacy of these individuals alive, and we could use your assistance. We're having the sons and daughter of partisans contact those still with us, and the stories we're hearing from these elderly survivors are incredible. It's helping us connect families and piece together a more complete history of the partisans, a history which has largely been untold.

In case you're not familiar with our organization, the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF) is the only organization worldwide that preserves the legacy of the partisans by providing free materials for schools and synagogues about the partisan history and legacy. Our educational materials are used in over 5,000 schools and synagogues.

JPEF is having a celebration this November in New York City to honor all the partisans. We’re bringing together as many partisans and their families as we are able to find to celebrate their legacy. This promises to be the largest gathering of partisans in memory, with our list of attending partisans growing daily.

We've released a PSA featuring Larry King, Liev Schreiber, Edward Zwick to aid with our search, and the results have been great with over 40 new partisan names coming this week alone! You could help us spread the word on Facebook by sharing the link to our video on our wall.

Any help you could offer in spreading the PSA or locating partisan families would be immensely appreciated.

For more information, visit or email

image: A group of Jewish partisans in the Rudniki forest, near Vilna, between 1942 and 1944. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Year and New Programs

I’d like to introduce you to a new staff member, Gabriel Sanders, our Director of Public Programs. We have asked him to let us know which September and October programs he is looking forward to the most.

Today’s high may be a balmy 85, but don’t be fooled: summer’s inching toward its close. Sure, there may be a few more weeks of fun and sun, but once those straw hats and white shoes get put in storage, it’s going to be time to get serious.

Fall’s arrival has always been a somber time for Jews—a period of stock-taking and introspection. For New Yorkers — and Americans generally — this will be doubly true this September, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Our programs for September and October look in both these directions—at the Jewish calendar and at our post 9/11 world.

We begin the season on September 7 with a discussion of Trauma’s Afterlife. Psychologists Elizabeth Goren and Rachel Yehuda, authorities of post-traumatic stress disorder, will assess the myriad ways in which the events of September 11, 2001, continue to inform our psychic lives, even as attack itself starts to fade into the past.

On October 2, the Sunday before Yom Kippur, we play host to Kol Nidre: Finding Meaning Through Music, an exploration of the holiday’s central prayer.

But our fall lineup is not only about somberness and introspection. The High Holidays are also about food, family, and fun.

On September 18, cookbook author Jayne Cohen will lead a discussion on the state of contemporary Jewish cuisine with a panel of top New York restaurateurs. The program, Beyond Borscht and Bourekas, will be followed by a light—and presumably cholent-free—reception.

The following Sunday, September 25, will feature a different sort of holiday feast: The storytelling duo Play Me a Story, will perform a Rosh Hashanah-flavored version of the children’s classic Stone Soup.

The season’s concluding offering, in connection with the Museum’s exhibition Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles, will be an October 30 walking tour of the poet’s New York haunts. Seems strange to think it in mid-August, but you’ll probably need a coat.

(image: Play Me a Story by Julie Platner)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gifts Galore

If somebody told me that I could go to the New York International Gift Fair and pick out jewelry to my heart’s content, I’d ask, “Is that before the personal masseuse shows up or after I consume my weight in chocolate with no perceptible difference in my waistline?”

Well, no masseuse is to be found, but yesterday I braved the elements and armed with instructions from Warren Shalewitz, our Pickman Museum Shop manager, I went to the show to buy new jewelry for our shop.

The fair takes place at the Javits Center and offers 2,800 exhibitors the chance to sell their wares to shops and stores of all kinds. Here’s a preview of what’s “in store” (or will be soon).

  • If you appreciate shiny objects the way I do, you will love some of the youthful necklaces created by AlefBet – perfect for the Bat Mitzvah in your life.

  • Ayala Bar, whose work we have carried for years, had some very exciting rings, earrings, and bracelets that remind me of fabulous wallpaper or gift wrap or amazing textiles.

  • If you’ve admired vintage long chains in magazines that look as if themed charms and amulets hang delicately from them, you’ll want to see the very spiffy necklaces from Amaro. They will look perfect with a black turtleneck sweater.

Alas, today I have traded in my shopping bag for an editor’s pen, but when these items come in, we’ll put them on the website for all to enjoy. All proceeds from items sold in the Pickman Museum Shop help fund the Museum’s educational programs.

Amaro amulet pictured above.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preserving the Culture of Tibet

This blog comes from our high school apprentice, Tenzin, whose internship here has given her new insights into her own Tibetan heritage.

One of the most encouraging and fascinating aspects of the Museum is its portrayal of the survival of Jewish life before and after the Holocaust. Despite the centuries of struggles Jews faced, they have still managed to preserve and maintain their heritage and culture, and most importantly, their identity. Seeing how Jews have held on to their traditions despite all the opposition they faced has made me see a connection between the Jewish Diaspora and that of Tibetans today.

In 1959, many Tibetans fled to northern India and Nepal, including my dad’s family. My dad’s family moved to Nepal, and they had to start completely new lives. This was the Tibetan Diaspora, and it meant that Tibetans had to establish new lives in new communities, just like Jews have repeatedly done for centuries. Today, the struggle Tibetans face relates to not only the loss of a homeland, but also the preservation of our heritage. It is sad to hear that Tibetans are becoming minorities in their own land; they don’t have the freedom to practice their own religion and culture, just like the Jews didn’t during certain periods of history.

I have now lived in America for 9 years, and it has become increasingly difficult to preserve my heritage. I go to a school where there are few Tibetans and live in a neighborhood where there are few Tibetan families. Growing up in these circumstances, it becomes easy to abandon one’s customs. But, being part of the apprenticeship program at the Museum has inspired me to maintain my traditions and culture. I hope that Tibetans, especially the next generation and generations to come, can find the courage, strength, and determination to preserve the Tibetan heritage as Jews have done throughout their history.

Images: photos from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts