Friday, February 25, 2011

We'll Miss You, Project Mah Jongg

And so it is upon us, that day we knew would come: the final day of Project Mah Jongg. This Sunday marks the end of tiles clacking in the galleries, ladies from Long Island arriving in foursomes, and the general spirit that permeated the rotunda gallery. There is no doubt that we have created moments of nostalgia and splendid memories for multiple generations of women (let’s be honest). And though we are despondent in PMJ’s final hours in New York, this is not the end. We are ready to begin a long-distance, committed relationship with the exhibition as it leaves us to travel around the country.

Look for Project Mah Jongg in the following cities beginning this fall:

Keep an eye on to learn where the exhibition will be next. And fear not, all things mah jongg will still be available online in the Pickman Museum Shop.

Thanks for everything, Melissa and Ivy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Truly Extraordinary Story for Black History Month and Beyond

This month, I have been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. It is a wonderfully written and impeccably researched book about an unknown African American woman whose cells, taken without her knowledge, would help medical research for decades to come. It is such a multi-faceted story about racism, poverty, and medical ethics, that I can’t fully do it justice. Here is the publisher’s description below.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

As the Museum of Jewish Heritage, we are devoted to giving “voices” back to those who suffered injustices and did not have the agency to speak for themselves. This book certainly does just that and I recommend it highly for that reason.

I think you will agree that there are countless stories that remain to be told about African American experiences. Several of those stories are told in our traveling exhibition, Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, now on view at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Visit our website for upcoming venues for all our traveling exhibitions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Plans for Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum

This week the New York Times ran a very interesting article by Michael Kimmelman about plans for updating the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum. The proposal will focus on preserving the camp, putting what happened there into historical context, and doing their best to make sure future generations understand the relevance of what happened there. We’re interested in knowing what our readers who have been there think about this. What could be done better? What should stay the same?

If you have yet to go to Auschwitz, the Museum is planning a mission to Poland this April. It will include time in Warsaw, Krakow, and Oświęcim and will really be a life-changing experience. Click here to find out more.

photo: Cadets and midshipmen visit Auschwitz with the Auschwitz Jewish Center's United States Service Academy Program.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Canyon of Heroes

This blog comes from Lisa who likes a good walk.

With this brief and wonderful taste of spring weather and all the ice mounds melting away (Hooray!), you may consider taking an actual stroll outside. If you find yourself in Lower Manhattan, take advantage of walking along the Canyon of Heroes and listening to the new, free Canyon of Heroes podcast – a 10-minute audio guide to the history and legacy of the famed parade route on Broadway from Battery Park to City Hall.

Sidewalk markers along the Canyon of Heroes commemorate the parades for every ticker-tape honoree—a group that includes pioneers of air and space travel, soldiers, sailors and sea captains, heads of state, politicians, firefighters, journalists, athletes, and even a virtuoso pianist. For a complete list of the markers, click here.

The podcast is available on CultureNOW’s website, itunes and a free iphone app, CultureNOW: A Guidebook for the Museum Without Walls, Lower Manhattan.

To access the podcast, click here.

Thanks to the Downtown Alliance for this image.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Gossip and the Snacks

The Jewish Channel also skipped the Super Bowl and the Puppy Bowl last weekend to come out for our Mah Jongg Marathon. View their story here. As our director, David Marwell said, it is all about the gossip and the snacks. He’s new to the game, but he’s got a point. However, as a new or old player, if you want to win some hands, just don’t let the gossip distract you from the tiles.

For those of you that have yet to see Project Mah Jongg, take advantage of the nice weather this week and come visit. The exhibition closes on February 27.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Religions in Dialogue

Yesterday we welcomed 100 Muslim students from the Razi School in Queens thanks to Dr. Boris Pincus, and his group Religions in Dialogue, who made the visit possible. The students heard from distinguished Jewish and Muslim leaders and elected officials before touring the Museum and hearing Holocaust survivor Sally Frishberg speak about her life. Fostering interfaith dialogue is at the heart of what the Museum of Jewish Heritage does on a daily basis. We thank the students, teachers, and all other guests for coming to the Museum to share in a journey of understanding.

We also wanted to especially thank Liz Edelstein and her staff for all the work they did to make the students' visit special.

Photo by Trevor Messersmith

Monday, February 7, 2011

Post Marathon Wrap Up

Yesterday was one of the most fun and exhilarating days I have spent at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — and that is saying a lot. I want to thank the 62 women (and a couple of brave men) who joined us for the Mah Jongg Marathon. We all had a grand time playing the game and raising money for a great cause. I think most of us even made it home in time to hear the national anthem before the Super Bowl and catch some good commercials with talking animals.

While I may have a headache from a little too much laughter, too much chocolate, and trying to speak over the clicking of tiles, and my head may still be spinning from trying to keep different “table rules” straight, meeting so many enthusiastic players and lovely people was just a joy. By the end of the day, we were all old friends. Players were exchanging e-mail addresses and promising to get together for regular games and the staff wholeheartedly agreed to do it again next year.

If you were not among the crew yesterday, you can catch a video of the event on the Daily News website:. Click on “local” and then “Mah Jongg Marathon.”

Seen here: Our youngest player, 10 year old Alyssa McPherson, holds her own with the pros.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Countdown to Sunday!

Just in case you need any reminding, Sunday is our Mah Jongg Marathon and the Super Bowl. As a public service, we are providing a Kosher chili recipe (dairy) courtesy of Esprit Events, our in-house caterer and café operator. We chose a dairy version because chili without cheese is like... a martini without an olive or French toast without powdered sugar or latkes without apple sauce or sour cream (or in the case of my husband, both).

2 onions chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup chili powder
1 TB cumin
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 – 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 cup water
4 – 15.5 cans of beans – all different kinds
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large deep pan, add onions, pepper, chili and cumin, cook until veggies have softened. Stir in garlic. Stir in all tomatoes and water. Simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Salt to taste. Add beans and simmer uncovered until chili starts to thicken, about 30 minutes.

You can garnish with a variety of delectable items – cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, some Monterey pepper jack, perhaps.

We suggest making ahead the day before and keeping it warm in the crock pot. Skip out to play a little mah jongg, and be back in time for kick-off.

Photo of crock pot found on Creative Commons.