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.

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