Friday, April 29, 2011

Sunday, May 1 is Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday and Holocaust survivors and artifact donors will be in the galleries from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to talk to visitors. It is always a meaningful and humbling day. As you listen in the galleries you cannot help but ask yourself where does the inner strength come from to survive atrocity? How do you rebuild your life? How do you live with absence? How do you find joy? You need not wonder. Come to the Museum on Sunday and hear for yourself. Spend some time reflecting in the Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, which has blossomed this week, in time to remind us once again how life can thrive even in the most seemingly inhospitable of places.

If you can’t get out on Sunday, you can listen to the Annual Gathering of Remembrance via live audio stream beginning at 2 p.m.

We have a wonderful concert of music from the Holocaust taking place on Wednesday, May 4. Learn more.

However you choose to observe Yom HaShoah, we hope it is a meaningful day for you.

Photo by Melanie Einzig.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beyond Flowers and Perfume: Celebrate the Women in Your Life This Mother's Day

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, we have a couple of thoughtful ideas that will help make the mothers in your life feel extra special this year. On the day itself, why not take your mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends to the Museum of Jewish Heritage to see Judy Gold’s hilarious and poignant show 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother? which has been called “fiercely funny, honest, and moving,” and “a rich borscht” full of characters by the New York Times. See a clip here.

We are also thrilled to announce the release of a wonderful, uplifting cookbook: Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival by June Feiss Hersh. The book includes moving stories about food and families; recipes from Holocaust survivors from around the world; as well as recipes from many top chefs including Mark Bittman, Daniel Boulud, and Ina Garten. All proceeds will benefit the Museum, which makes this inspiring book a gift that will keep on giving long after it is unwrapped and treasured. Read a review in the New York Times.

Image: Regina Finer arriving in America, 1950.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover 2.0

While modern technology can sometimes be a bit of a minor plague (I’ve had two cell phones die on me in the past 6 months alone), it has more than made up for it by the sheer amount of funny videos on YouTube and the aforementioned Bronx Zoo Cobra Twitter feed. Now we have a new obsession. has made a hilarious ode to Passover that asks ‘What if Moses Had Google Maps, Twitter, and Facebook?’ Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

What We’re Reading Now

I am happy to report that the Museum Staff book club has started up again after a little hiatus. I am even happier to report that we just read and discussed a wonderful novel — The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

The book, which the LA Times calls “a stunning first novel,” has been compared to work by Tolstoy and Dr. Zhivago in scope and feeling. I have to agree. It is romantic and epic, and has an exquisitely drawn out plot worthy of Dickens. I don’t want to say too much, but The Invisible Bridge is a love story set against the backdrop of 1930s Budapest and Paris and a tale of two families whose lives are ravaged by war.

The book follows Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, who arrives in Paris from Budapest in 1937 with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, the beautiful and mysterious Klara Morgenstern, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, as his elder brother takes up medical studies in Italy, their younger brother disappears, and their friends are scattered when they can no longer continue their studies, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends each of their lives into terrifying uncertainty.

Julie Orringer will be here May 18 to speak about the book with Tablet’s Gabriel Sanders who always asks great questions. That said, if he misses one, there will be a chance to ask the author your own question.

Also, If you have other suggestions of books that the staff may like, feel free to let us know by posting a comment or emailing

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem in Your Pocket Day

We are terribly excited that today, April 14, is Poem in Your Pocket Day (PIYPD), an initiative to get New Yorkers to stop and enjoy poetry and think about how to incorporate it into their lives. Our neighbors at Poets House will be distributing small cards with poems printed on them to passers-by. Staff and volunteers will be in and around Lower Manhattan at the World Financial Center courtyard (11 a.m.–2 p.m.) and at Poets House itself (throughout the day).

The City of New York launched Poem in Your Pocket Day in 2002, and last year it went national. There are events galore, a Facebook page, and of course twitter opportunities aplenty in the form of poetweets.

If you are inspired to create your own poem, the Tribute Center is hosting a haiku workshop today from 3-5 p.m. Actual poets will guide visitors in the art of haiku, the Japanese poetry form that consists of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

The Brooklyn Museum will grant free admission today to anyone bearing a poem. I don’t think you need to recite it, just have it on your person.

I have to say that PIYPD can be a little intimidating when you have an exhibition up about Hannah Senesh and you are curating one about Emma Lazarus. On the other hand, what a wealth of resources we have from which to choose a magnificent poem. Here is a poem Hannah wrote to her brother when he was leaving Hungary for France in July 1938. It is translated from the Hungarian by Peter Hay.


You left.We waved a long while.
Porters clattered behind.
We watched and you disappeared.

Life took you. You were happy.
Maybe your heart had songs within.
Our tears were well hidden.

Wordless, we went home
Watching the sky, pale and blue,
And our soul, unseen and secretly
Is waving still to you.

If you are observing PIYPD, please share your poem in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

May the Tiles Be in Your Favor

This is an exciting week around the offices of the Museum. Not only are we getting ready for Passover, but this week the new 2011 mah jongg cards have arrived in the Pickman Museum Shop. As you know, the Museum staff is full of mah jongg devotees. We’ve been eagerly anticipating the new cards for months. There have been many discussions about which hands we’ll miss and which ones we will be glad to never see again. At first glance, the card looks challenging, but well organized with fewer concealed hands other than in the “Singles and Pairs” section of the card. Once you are familiar with the new card, feel free to stop by the Museum’s café around lunch time and play a hand or two with us. We wish you luck and lots of jokers in the coming year.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Side of Iraq

This blog is from Keika who studied a lot of ancient history in college, and we're not talking early 1980s which is ancient history to some of our interns...

Last night, at the Museum, I attended a captivating program called Tales from Iraq. Authors Ariel Sabar and Jessica Jiji, both children of Iraqi Jewish immigrants, shared stories about their heritage and charmed the audience with an intimate look into the culture and history of both the Jews of Baghdad and the Jews of Kurdistan. Jiji and Sabar have admired each other’s work for years, but had never met in person until last night so it was great to share this moment with them as they reminisced. One amazing fact I learned is that Sabar’s father is one of the last people on earth to speak Aramaic fluently.

Prior to attending this program, I knew little about the 2,600-year history of Jews in Iraq, but have always been intrigued with this topic. To me, these communities seem to be the closest we’ll ever get to see how the Judahites lived in the land of Israel thousands of years ago. I also learned that, historically, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived side-by-side in relative peace in Iraq; and the Jews in Baghdad were also successful business people and politicians. But, between 1948 and 1951, there was a mass exodus of about 130,000 Iraqi Jews to the State of Israel due to the increasing tensions. As a result, fewer than 100 Jews live in Iraq today. That is why it is important to preserve the history of these communities, and both Jiji and Sabar accomplish that through their literary works (both fiction and non-fiction). To learn more about this fascinating history, you can order their books from the Pickman Museum Shop.

Photo: Ariel Sabar.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

History is Made on the Fourth Floor

In this week’s edition of The Jewish Week, there is a story of special interest regarding an historic agreement made this week between the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the German government. Germany has agreed to a multi-year commitment to fund home care for needy Holocaust survivors through 2014. The funding will go from $177 million in 2012 to $196 million in 2014, but as the Claims Conference website says, the total is $600 million. Negotiators on both sides should be pleased and proud of their work on this monumental task.

Prior to sitting down on Monday across a long mahogany conference table in a room on the fourth floor that overlooks the Statue of Liberty, the group went on a tour of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “We took them on a tour of the museum for an hour before the session with a German-speaking guide,” Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the Claims Conference’s special negotiator, told The Jewish Week. “The environment was quite good and historic.”

Following the tour they retreated to our board room to get down to business.

Given the result of these momentous talks, I don’t think I’ll ever see our board room quite the same way ever again.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Behind the Scenes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Last Friday’s moving episode of Who Do You Think You Are? delved into the background of Gwyneth Paltrow. While audiences across the country watched Gwyneth discover amazing stories about her father’s rabbinical ancestors in Poland, what they didn’t see is how the show’s researchers got started on that path. Paltrow and the show’s team were able to begin their investigation thanks to information found in the 4.2 million records found on the independent Jewish Records Indexing – Poland, an extensive website, database, and discussion group hosted by JewishGen, an affiliate of the Museum. The show’s researchers found that Paltrow’s roots go back to a long line of rabbis named Paltrowicz from northeastern Poland and the towns of Suwalki, Lomza, and nearby shtetls. JRI-Poland, which the show’s researchers called “invaluable,” had 90 records related to her family.

Viewers of the show have learned through Lisa Kudrow’s dramatic journey that it is very difficult for many Eastern European Jewish families to find records of relatives as connections were often lost because of the Holocaust. While Who Do You Think You Are? employs professional researchers and genealogists, JewishGen makes it possible for anyone to start researching their family for free with the help of experts who offer assistance through special interest discussion groups. These longtime researchers provide up-to-date data to the site making previously unknown information available to all.

To get started, JewishGen recommends that first-time researchers first interview the family members who may have information about the family’s history. Researchers should then register for the JewishGen Family Finder, which registers the family names and ancestral towns that they are researching. If people are researching the same names or ancestral towns they may contact each other. Thousands of people have been reconnected to relatives through the JGFF. Discussion groups are also available and are read and contributed to by researchers around the world. On the discussion group, readers ask questions, provide tips, and focus on specific geographic areas and interests.

Log onto to begin your own journey.

Photo: Ms. Paltrow at the Eldridge Street Synagogue.