Monday, January 31, 2011

Extra! Extra!

When we see reporters downtown, we always hope they are here to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage and write fabulous things about our exhibits and educational initiatives. While that is sometimes true, now they have another really good reason to be downtown, according to the New York Times.

We can’t wait to welcome all of our new media neighbors. Condé Nast, The Daily News, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and The National Enquirer will all be moving to the Financial District and World Trade area. I guess we will have to be extra careful when getting dressed in the morning now that Condé Nast will be nearby. We don’t want to end up in the “don’t” section of a magazine. We also look forward to hearing what the National Enquirer makes of the “Sad Panda” in our neighborhood. Could he be an alien?

Thanks to Downtown Alliance for spreading the good news. Photo: newspaper row c. 1906

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance at the U.N.

This blog comes from Bonnie Gurewitsch, curator and archivist at the Museum. This week she participated in the annual Holocaust and the United Nations Programme event at the UN in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which took place yesterday.

I was pleased to have been invited to speak with Frank Blaichman, a Holocaust survivor who was a partisan. The master of ceremonies, Kiyo Akasak, the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, greeted me and Blaichman personally, and briefly welcomed the audience, which was comprised of at least 250 people of all ages and ethnicities. Then they showed the film, Daring to Resist, a very good one hr documentary made about10 years ago with the help of the Museum, about 3 women resisters. The film was selected because of the theme of this year's commemorations - Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion.

I then spoke briefly about the historical aspects of the film putting Jewish resistance in context with special attention to women's experiences. Then Mr. Blaichman offered his remarks. When the floor was first opened up for questions, the audience remained silent. Then Kimberly Mann, the very personable moderator asked two questions she had prepared to get things started. Her question to me was a good one: "If you were a young person and wanted to resist the Nazis, where and how would you find a resistance group?" It gave me a chance to discuss the role of the Zionist youth organizations, Jewish community structures in small towns, and Jewish - non-Jewish cooperation. After Frank Blaichman answered Kimberly's question for him, the audience woke up and there was a lively interchange for a good 50 minutes.

Most questions were intelligent and thoughtful. Some of the more interesting questions addressed the issues of survivor silence, assistance from the local population, what did people in the US know in 1938 [ in reaction to the St. Louis incident], and why people did not believe the reports about mass murder.

By the time the moderator closed the event, the audience was disappointed that the evening was ending. After the event several people came over to me with questions. It was well attended and well run, and the audience was interested and appreciative. It was nice that the Museum of Jewish Heritage was included in the U.N’s programming.

image: Frank Blaichman when he was a partisan.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New, Free Website for Teaching Students About the Holocaust

As many of you know, today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. While the Museum of Jewish Heritage honors the memory of those who perished all year round, today we mark the day in a very special way.

We are proud to commemorate the day by continuing our commitment to helping students of all backgrounds around the globe create a personal connection to history. In order to do this, we are launching an innovative website, Coming of Age Now, Coming of Age in the Holocaust.

Coming of Age, which is designed for middle and high school students and educators, introduces students to the stories of young people who survived the Holocaust. This interactive, online experience features 13 first-person accounts of young people who survived the Holocaust. The website guides students through an exploration of experiences, historical events, and ethical issues. Compelling videos feature the survivors’ stories about their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust.

This is a wonderful resource, especially for students who do not have the ability to meet with Holocaust survivors in person. The immediacy of hearing survivors' stories in their own words and in their own voices will encourage a new generation to reflect thoughtfully about the Holocaust and its relevance today.

Please let teachers and parents in your community know about this new website. For more information, please contact or call 646.437.4290.

Development of the Coming of Age website is made possible by a generous grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany: Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Extreme Makeover Website Edition

Visitors to the Museum’s website this week will have noticed that it has a brand-new look. Not only is the new design more attractive and easy to read, it is also easier to navigate and full of beautiful images from the Museum’s collection, public programs, and educational initiatives. Log on to get information about upcoming events and to learn more about current exhibitions such as Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh through interactive features including timelines and artifact explorations. Our hearty thanks to Trevor, Lisa, and Abby for being our Clinton Kelly and Stacy(s) London.

Yes, I know I am mixing reality television metaphors.

Walking Israel Program Postponed Until Monday

Because of the weather, we are postponing tonight's program, Walking Israel, with Andrea Mitchell and Martin Fletcher, until this coming Monday, January 31. If you weren't free tonight, but your schedule is open on Monday, so much the better. We're all about the positive on the Staff Blog.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. Get your tickets now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

It’s time to gear up for the Lunar New Year, which is February 3. In addition to dreaming of dim sum, we’re excited to announce two terrific ways to ring in the year of the rabbit.

Our friends at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) will be hosting a family festival this Sunday, January 30. The day will include storytelling with celebrated children’s book author Kam Mak, a noodle-making workshop, a special lion dance performance and workshop, and family-friendly gallery talks through MOCA's core exhibit as well as through our newest exhibit, Chinese Puzzles: Games for the Hands and the Mind. There will also be arts and crafts activities throughout the day. The celebration is for ages 4 and up.

We also want to remind you that it is not too late to sign up for the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s first-ever Mah Jongg Marathon on February 6. The day will include the chance to win a room and dinner at the New York Marriott Downtown and many other fabulous prizes. Special guests such as author and illustrator Maira Kalman will also be stopping by to chat and perhaps play a hand. Register now and help us put the fun back in fundraising!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Free Guided Tours

Beginning February 2, the Museum will be offering drop-in guided tours of the Core Exhibition. The tours, which are free with Museum admission, will take place on Wednesday afternoons at 3 p.m. The tour includes all three floors of the Core Exhibition, which explore Jewish Life a Century Ago; The War Against the Jews; and Jewish Renewal.

Interested visitors should meet the Gallery Educator in the lobby by 3 p.m. The tour is recommended for visitors who are at least 12 years of age. Parents are advised to preview the exhibition and use their discretion. For more information please visit our website or call 646.437.4202.

photo: Gallery educator Sally Frishberg leading a tour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Preview of Intriguing Film

On January 25 at 7:30 p.m., join our friends at the JCC in Manhattan for a special preview screening of Berlin 36, a fascinating film based on the real life of Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann and her attempt to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. She was at first denied a spot on the team because she was Jewish. She then enrolled in school in London where she continued to practice and improve her high jump. When the International Olympic Committee demanded that German Jews be able to compete, Gretel is called back from England to train. Despite being one of the best high jumpers in the world, at the last minute, when it was too late for the Americans to boycott, the Nazi party replaced her. The film follows the unlikely friendship of Gretel and “Marie,” the athlete that replaced her, who was later revealed to have been a man.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Visit to Mount Herzl

This blog is from Museum educator Monica Brandwein who recently returned from a trip to Israel where she was visiting family and friends including her brother who is studying there for a year.

After learning about the life of Hannah Senesh in the current special exhibition, Fire in My Heart, I found myself drawn to her story. Therefore, I thought it was important to make the time to visit her grave during my trip to Israel. Hannah is buried at Mount Herzl, a large cemetery in Jerusalem where many important figures of the state of Israel are buried. When I finally found her grave there was a large Birthright group standing around it. The leader of the group was playing a recording of her poem Eli, Eli. Immediately I was brought to tears. It was amazing to see how many people were there to pay their respects. After the song was over, two of the soldiers that were with the group lit a candle on her tombstone. The sight of this was so moving and inspiring. After the Birthright group left, several young women in the Israeli Army arrived. The leader of the group began to explain in Hebrew who Hannah Senesh was and why she was buried there. This experience opened my eyes to the important role Hannah Senesh played during World War II and in Israeli history and how she has become so special to so many people.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Welcome FASPE Alumni

This weekend we are delighted to welcome FASPE alums from the 2010 medical and law programs.

FASPE, which stands for Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics, is an innovative program for students in professional schools designed to address contemporary ethical issues through a unique historical context. The Fellowships provide journalism, law, medical, business, and seminary students a structured program of study that initially focuses on the role of their chosen professions in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and uses that historic focus as a framework for the consideration of contemporary ethical issues. FASPE is under the auspices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Twelve to fifteen Fellows from each profession are chosen to participate in FASPE each year through a competitive process that draws applicants from professional schools across the country. Following an introductory session in New York, the Fellows travel to Berlin, Krakow, and Oswiecim (Auschwitz). In Germany and Poland, the in situ program looks at the role of the profession in the development and implementation of policies and programs that led to the Holocaust.

FASPE is predicated upon both the potent symbolism of Auschwitz and the Fellows’ personal experience while in Germany and Poland to help the Fellows explore the power, potential, and challenges of their chosen professions.

Lead support for FASPE is provided by C. David Goldman, Frederick and Margaret Marino, and the Eder Family Foundation. FASPE is also supported by the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and other generous donors.

On Sunday and Monday, many of the returning students are presenting papers, recently published in a journal. The Keynote Speaker is Dr. Thomas Duffy, is Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. He is currently Director of The Program for Humanities in Medicine at Yale, bringing attention to the links among the arts, humanities, and the practice of medicine by a series of lectures each year for the faculty, students and surrounding community members. Dr. Duffy is the founding member of the Ethics Committee which analyzes topics such as euthanasia and the doctor-patient relationship. Dr. Duffy has been teaching medical students in both pre-clinical and clinical years, residents and fellows, and visiting students for more than 25 years.

If you would like to attend, e-mail

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Get Ready for a Royal Rendezvous Thursday Night

No, Prince William and Kate Middleton are not staying at the Ritz Carlton, but there will be fireworks downtown because of some royal shenanigans.

Three Cunard ships, the Queen Mary, the Queen Victoria, and the newly launched Queen Elizabeth will all set sail Thursday night, and before they depart our glorious city they will meet in the Harbor and pose with their equally regal friend, the Statue of Liberty, as a fireworks extravaganza dazzles the night sky. The ships, which comprise the entire Cunard fleet, will gather at 6 p.m. The fireworks, a Grucci production, are scheduled for 6:45.

We will have spectacular views from our little corner of the world; it’s even an incentive to work late tomorrow night. The folks at Cunard have identified some great views, and we couldn’t agree more:

Battery Park
Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park
The Esplanade
Hudson River Park

The event is dubbed “The Meeting of the Queens,” forcing me to ask, "Will Queen Elizabeth tweet about this event?"

Photo of fireworks over the Statue of Liberty in honor of Dr. Ruth’s 80th birthday. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Blessing of Song

I was so sad to hear the news about the passing of Debbie Friedman, who revolutionized Jewish music. I can’t hear her songs without thinking back fondly on my days in NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth). Her melodies were a big part of the soundtrack of my high school years. In a way, I credit her music as helping me stay engaged in Jewish life after my bat mitzvah, a time when so many of my peers dropped out of Hebrew school. When I first went to a youth group event and heard the contemporary melodies, I felt at home. Judaism wasn’t a religion about old men. She reached out to us and made Judaism very relevant, accessible, and beautiful. Now many years later, her music is not just sung by teenagers. You can go into many synagogues and hear it and feel its power to connect congregants to each other and to the ancient texts. May her memory be a blessing.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We’ve Got Shpilkes*

Our first wedding is taking place here Sunday night. That’s right, we are now available for weddings. You’ve read about our proposals, but now we are a full-service simcha venue. We won’t reveal details ahead of the big day, but we will have photos to share.

Are you getting married? Know someone who is? Our spaces are so versatile that we can accommodate from 30 to 350 people (the Event crew is magic, what can we say?). You would be hard-pressed to find a location as historic and meaningful as ours. If you’d like more details, e-mail

In the meantime, we wish the happy couple a hearty Mazel Tov!

*Yiddish for needles and pins; idiomatic: like I’m on pins and needles. In my defense, I always have shpilkes.

Photo of our Special Events Hall by Melanie Einzig.