Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snake Takes Manhattan

Yesterday, when I was home sick, I was catching up with the news and dismayed to hear about the trouble our colleagues at the Bronx Zoo are having as they try to locate their missing cobra. It really put my missing stapler into perspective.

Luckily, the animal trainers and communications office prepared the snake well for real-world challenges like map reading, typing, and social media skills. He has been having a grand old time tweeting about his adventures via his iPhone.

While I was reluctant to join Twitter and I harbor a fear of snakes, together they make a delightful combination. Who knew?

Our Communications team has been following the cobra’s escapades with great interest. We have even invited him to stop by the Museum since he has recently been on Wall Street and at Ellis Island. So now is a great time to follow us on Twitter and see what happens. We don’t bite. I doubt you’ll get the same promise from the snake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

100 Years Ago Today

A lot has been written in the past month about the Triangle Shirt Waist Fire that 100 years ago today killed 146 people, mostly young women, and mostly Jews and other immigrants. While it is interesting to me that 100 years later people are still debating organized labor and immigration issues, and it is left to the reader to determine how far we've come after 10 decades of discussion, I can’t help but think that the victims themselves have been lost to history.

This weekend there are commemorative events at NYU, Cooper Union, the Museum at Eldridge Street each with its complement of poetry, impassioned speeches, music, storytelling, theater, prayer, and ideally a moment to reflect on those 146 souls.

The Forward put together a really terrific print issue and website devoted to the fire. Articles that appeared in the “Forverts” have been translated into English and give the reader a true sense of what it was like to read about this tragedy in its immediate aftermath. We learn about a young woman who was to be wed later that week, and another couple who embraced and kissed before leaping to their deaths. It reminded me of the New York Times solemn devotion to the Portraits of Grief after September 11.
May the memory of all who lost their lives that day be a blessing for the ages.
There is a particularly interesting video produced by Gabrielle Birkner on the Forward site about workplace safety issues that resulted in 35 fire safety laws in New York state that were eventually adopted on the federal level when FDR was president. If you work in a public space, or ever find yourself in one, say a special blessing for the EXIT sign, panic bar, fire extinguisher, and manual fire alarm in your midst.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sneak Preview- Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc

This beautiful exhibition of photos by Yuri Dojc of remnants of Jewish life in Slovakia opens to the public tomorrow, but we couldn't wait to share a few images with you. Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc will be on view through the late summer. It is always exciting to finally see an exhibit mounted on our walls, but this one is especially rewarding for us because designer Daniel Weil of Pentagram has created something really unique and evocative. Come by soon and see for yourself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the Galleries

Yesterday and today, students from the eponymous Hannah Senesh Community Day School are visiting Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh. I caught the beginning of a 4th grade class yesterday and saw that the teachers, who have studied the exhibition in depth, had prepared worksheets for the students. The pupils were given prompts based on which section of the exhibition they were in. Questions included: Why was it so important that Hannah learned Hebrew? Find a few Hebrew words that you know and write them here. What did Hannah take with her when she went to Palestine? Why did she join the army? What was her job?

They were also asked to talk about favorite artifacts. I particularly appreciated that the last worksheet asked the students to create a tour of the exhibition for someone else based on the artifacts they liked. It is never too early to plan for a career in Museum education.

I was also told about a great interaction between a chaperone and a young person. They were looking at the Garden of Stones from the 3rd floor. The chaperone noticed the child looking confused and described what they were viewing, explaining that each of the boulders is hollowed out and each has a small oak tree growing from it.

“What?” he asked, curious and undaunted by his confusion.

She reiterated that each boulder is hollowed out and holds soil and the tree grows in the soil.

Beginning to see the light, the young man responded, “Wait, let me get this straight. They’re hollowed out? Each one is hollowed out?”

And then they left for the bus.

Photo Collection of the Senesh Family.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Fever

It may be rainy with a chance of snow this week, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look ahead to spring. We’re happy to announce that the April, May, and June public programs have been announced and that tickets are on sale.

Some highlights of the season are:

The New York premiere of Cantors, A Faith in Song will take place on Sunday, April 10. Cantors Alberto Mizrahi Benzion Miller, and Naftali Herstik will perform music from their PBS concert of joyful and deeply spiritual music.

On Wednesday, April 13, we’ll team up with the Public Theater to present a lively debate about Shylock, Shakespeare, and the Jews: Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice. New York Times theater critic Patrick Healy will moderate Barry Edelstein, director of The Public Theater's Shakespeare Initiative; Columbia University Prof. James Shapiro; and Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union. This should be a hotter ticket than Spider-Man and far less dangerous.

On Mother’s Day, May 8, we’ll be kvelling because Judy Gold will perform her hit one-woman show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother which the New York Times calls “fiercely funny, honest and moving.”

On May 22, the Museum, Centro Primo Levi, and a bunch of other wonderful Italian organizations will present La Roma Ebraica: The Choir of Rome's Tempio Maggiore in Concert . This once-in-a-lifetime concert will feature Verdi's beloved Hebrew chorus from Nabucco and other beautiful and evocative works that embody Jewish life in Rome throughout the ages. Bellissimo!

Finally, in June, we’ll start our free summer film series. This year we’ll be showing Woody Allen films such as Annie Hall, Purple Rose of Cairo , and more. They are all free with suggested donation.

These are just some of the fantastic programs we have lined up for you. Visit the website for more information. We hope to see you soon!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bad Guys and Baked Goods

Purim starts Saturday night at sunset. During the Purim holiday Jews all over the world commemorate the victory of the Jews over Haman’s plot to destroy them, as recorded in the Book of Esther. A festival of merrymaking to celebrate religious freedom seems like an excellent tradition to uphold. Purim is also the reason we eat tasty triangular treats known as hamantashen.

The Museum’s online collection is featuring a variety of Purim-related artifacts for your edification. Take a look at some of the terrific photos of people in Purim costumes. Rumor has it one of our colleagues will be dressed as the Statue of Liberty when she celebrates Purim tomorrow. I hope we get to add her photo to the collection.

Chag Sameach!

Photo: Gift of Peter and Barbara Frank in memory of Gertrude J. Frank

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shalom From Ireland

This week we had a special visitor who was a representative from the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin (a place Abby took a photo of on her honeymoon). It got us thinking about other Irish Jewish places and people of interest.

Here are a few off-the-beaten-path spots in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which is not a Jewish holiday…but if you want to make your hamantaschen with green sprinkles, no one is going to stop you, provided that the sprinkles are Kosher.

In Dublin you can visit the birthplace of Leopold Bloom, James Joyce’s famous fictional character in Ulysses (Okay, so I couldn’t get into the book which is really long and intimidating, but my mom celebrates Bloom’s Day every year). You can also see the former home of the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Dr. Isaac Herzog. He was the father of Irish-born Chaim Herzog, Israel’s 6th president.

If in your travels, you end up in Cork, stop by the Cork Cemetery which contains the graves of Jewish passengers from both the Lusitania, torpedoed 7th May 1916, and from planes downed over the Atlantic.

There are many, many more interesting places and remarkable individuals who have an Irish Jewish background, like actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Who knew? Visit the website of the Irish Jewish Community to learn more.

Erin go Bragh!

image: Kosher Guinness

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Volunteers Wanted!

Did you know that the Museum welcomes more than 50,000 students every year? It may sound daunting, but we have a dedicated group of Gallery Educators. They enthusiastically share their knowledge and engage diverse students in an interactive dialogue, providing a meaningful educational experience. This fall we are looking for some remarkable volunteers to join their ranks and serve as tour guides for youth, adult, and family groups. People of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages are encouraged to apply.

Interested parties should fill out a Volunteer Application before May 2. Once chosen for the program, candidates attend a 16-week course of study starting in September followed by a 10-week in-gallery practice course. Click here for more information.

photo: a Gallery Educator teaches students about social justice on the third floor of the Core Exhibition.Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Monday, March 14, 2011

1940 Haggadah Reissued

This Friday’s issue of the New York Times featured a really interesting story about master illustrator Arthur Szyk. Born in Poland, Szyk was known for his pointed political cartoons in Time, Esquire, and the New York Post. If you were as taken with the illuminated manuscript-style illustration as I was, you’ll be happy to know that, starting this week, the Pickman Museum Shop is selling the reissued Arthur Szyk haggadah from 1940 in both paperback and hardcover. Regardless of how you celebrate, we wish you a beautiful holiday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrating Shabbat with the Young Friends of the Museum

This blog is by Regina Roper. Regina manages the Young Friends, a group of Jewish professionals (ages 21-40) who are involved in an array of dynamic programming that celebrates Jewish heritage and preserves Holocaust memory.

Last Friday, the Young Friends of the Museum hosted our first-ever Shabbat Dinner. We're very happy to report that the evening, which took place at Darna Restaurant, was a huge success. There was an overwhelming interest in the event and we sold out almost a week before the dinner (so reserve tickets early next time). The night was chock-full of delicious food, friendly faces, and a warm atmosphere.

We were also privileged to have an inspirational guest speaker, Sol Rosenkranz, a Holocaust Survivor involved with the Museum through our Gallery Educators and Speakers Bureau programs. He shared his story of bravery and hope, encouraging our guests to continue the Museum's mission of Holocaust education and remembrance. We finished up the night with a smorgasbord of yummy desserts and socializing. It was a great night and we plan on hosting many more Shabbat Dinners soon. For information on future Young Friends events, including our upcoming Purim Party, visit our website.

Photo: Young Friends celebrate Hanukkah at the Museum. Board members Shoshana Werber (right) and Seth Weisleder (second from right) with two unnamed guests. Photo by Meredith Cooklis.

Monday, March 7, 2011

12 Annual Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Symposium Examines the Medical Profession and the Holocaust

Can it be that we are preparing for our 12th Annual Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Conference for Educators? During the past 12 years, more than 3,000 educators have attended these special symposia to learn from many topics, among them “Women in the Holocaust,” “Using Memoirs and Diaries as Teaching Tools,” and “Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust.” This year we examine a different perspective for us – the Medical Profession and the Holocaust, looking at how those sworn to save lives perverted this oath in the name of “science.”

Educators will learn about the development of Nazi medicine from its roots in the eugenics movement through its practice by Josef Mengele and others. They will also consider the ethical ramifications that Nazi medicine has had on medicine and science since the end of the Second World War.

Many German physicians, imbued with Nazi ideology, believed that the best way to care for the German people was to kill those who were seen as biological threats to the “Aryan race.” Beginning with the T-4 “euthanasia” program, which murdered thousands of mentally and physically disabled individuals, and ending with the genocide of the Jews and the murder of many others, physicians gave the aura of scientific respectability to the destruction of millions of human beings.

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Heller, a trained psychologist, will discuss how easily the moral code for medical professionals can be eroded as well as the complicity of the medical profession during the Holocaust.

Guest speakers include Michael Grodin, M.D., Professor of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights at the Boston University School of Public Health and Professor of Socio-Medical Sciences and Community Medicine and Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, and historian William Frederick Meinecke, Jr., Ph.D., who has been on staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum since June 2000. His book, Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust was published by the USHMM in December 2007. He is a frequent lecturer on medical ethics and Nazi ideology.

This symposium takes place on Tuesday, March 15 and is ideally suited for middle and high school teachers of History and Social Studies, and will include a tour of the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Core Exhibition.

The conference is free, however, reservations are required. RSVP by Friday, March 11 by calling 646.437.4200 x 4505.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Memory of Marilyn Henry

We learned today of the passing of a great Museum friend. Marilyn Henry, expert in Nazi-looted-art and a stalwart champion of Holocaust survivors and Holocaust restitution, passed away Tuesday night. She was the author of Confronting the Perpetrators: A History of the Claims Conference and spoke at the Museum of Jewish Heritage several times. Whether she was on stage at a public program or teaching at a symposium for educators, Marilyn was articulate, insightful, and unabashed in her opinions. It was impossible to hear her speak and not feel more knowledgeable after she concluded her remarks.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Marilyn was also a talented journalist, writing for both ArtNews and the Jerusalem Post. Betsy and I were fortunate enough to work with her regularly in that role because she was always so interested in what the Museum was doing. She wrote terrific pieces about N√©mirovsky, racial laws in conjunction with the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow exhibition, the Morgenthau exhibition, and of course, the resolution of the long-litigated “Portrait of Wally” case. Whenever she was done working on a piece she was a regular staff cheerleader, telling anyone who would listen how helpful the staff had been. When Marilyn saw Betsy for the first time following her maternity leave, her first question was about Ginny.

Marilyn’s Jerusalem Post columns were well researched and thoughtfully written, but she wrote one in particular, in November 2010, that told you everything you needed to know about Marilyn. She used her column for one time, and one time only, to announce that she had an incurable illness and how she was choosing to live her life. A hospice advocate in her personal life and in her role as a rebbetzin, Marilyn chose to emphasize the quality of her life rather than the duration of it. In fact, when she wrote her column, she was not yet receiving hospice care, but the possibility was not in the too distant future. “I am not yet ‘ripe’ for this end-of-life care, but when I am, a nurse and social worker, supervised by a physician, will provide pain relief and counseling for me and my family, in our home, to help us live as normally as possible for as long as possible. This seems to be a peaceful way to meet the Grim Reaper, malach hamavet.” The entire column appears here.

Last night, surrounded by family and “an unbelievably loyal group of friends,” Marilyn did not die with dignity…a life lived with dignity came to an end.

Our deepest sympathies are with her husband, Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, her family and her dear friends.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Our phone system has been down for two days. We aren’t a hospital or a newspaper, but we are a public institution with a staff of 60 plus people and face it, e-mail is not always the best communication tool.

Our large phone service provider, found conveniently high on the list of Fortune 500 companies, has directed all calls to one cell phone, and our colleague Erica is answering these calls as fast as she can, while I check messages from all the people who can’t get through at one time. There is a certain Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory aspect to all of this.

If you need to get in touch with Museum staff today, please e-mail us, and we hope to be speaking with you again soon.