Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Ruth Gruber discussing her book, Witness, with her niece, Dava Sobel, at a public program at the Museum on April 25, 2007 
Photo: Melanie Einzig

Ruth Gruber z”l passed away on November 17, 2016 at the age of 105. Ruth was an integral part of Jewish history in the 20th century and a beloved friend of the Museum. A trailblazing photojournalist and a fearless humanitarian, her life and work are inextricably bound with the rescue and survival of the Jewish people. While there are many articles detailing her life and extraordinary work, we want to highlight Ruth’s special relationship to the Museum.

In January 2007, the Museum showcased an exhibition featuring her work, From the Heart: The Photojournalism of Ruth Gruber. Ruth had backstage access to Jewish history: she escorted war refugees from Europe to America; visited DP camps; detailed the plight of the Exodus 1947; described the establishment of the State of Israel; and documented Israel’s ingathering of refugees from Europe, Iraq, Yemen, and Ethiopia. Emissary for Harold Ickes and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and Golda Meier, Ruth was both a witness to history and a human rights advocate. A selection from the exhibition is permanently on view on the Museum’s first floor; entry is free.

Ruth was a devoted supporter of the Museum. She served as the guest speaker at the Spring Women’s Luncheon, an annual fundraiser, in three separate years – 1995, 1998, and 2003. In 2007, Ruth gave a talk about her memoir, Witness, which included photographs and stories that not only chronicled her daring adventures, but provided new insights into some of the most dramatic events of the last century.

One of the stories was her top secret assignment for FDR where she accompanied 1,000 refugees to America — the only Jewish refugees allowed in this country at the time — and brought them to Fort Ontario, Oswego, NY. This chapter of her life, also the subject of her much-lauded book Haven, was made into a CBS miniseries starring Natasha Richardson as Ruth.

In 2012, the Museum was honored to present a screening of Ahead of Time: The Extraordinary Journey of Ruth Gruber, a documentary about her groundbreaking work in the 1930s and 1940s. Ruth was captivating as she participated in a post-screening discussion. The executive producers of this documentary included her dear friend and Museum Trustee Patti Kenner, and Doris Schechter, the restaurateur behind My Most Favorite Food, whose family had been among the Oswego refugees.

The Talmud says “Saving a single life is like saving an entire world.” Humanitarian, journalist, and activist Ruth Gruber saved the world a thousand times over.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice and Munich ’72 and Beyond

The documentaries Olympic Pride, American Prejudice and Munich ’72 and Beyond both follow the stories of several Olympic athletes that have impacted the world. The athletes in both films were subject to prejudices, and what happened to them while at their separate Olympic games are important parts of history. The stories told in these documentaries have the ability to teach important lessons of strength and perseverance to people today.

The film Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, written and directed by Deborah Riley Draper and narrated and executive produced by Blair Underwood, recounts the story of 18 African American athletes at the Olympic Summer Games of 1936 held in Berlin, Germany. This film covers the stories of the 17 lesser known teammates of Jesse Owens, which included two women athletes. The film was just selected for consideration as a potential Oscar nominee.

These 18 athletes defied Adolf Hitler, Jim Crow segregation, and were representing a country that viewed them as inferior human beings. This past September all 18 of the Olympic athletes were recognized at the White House by President Obama, 80 years after their heroic summer in Berlin.
Director Riley Draper said, “Our film can change hearts and minds in the same way the black athletes did in 1936. We shed light on an 80 year-old act of bias and ignited a movement to ensure their story and legacy lives on.”

Whether or not you are familiar with the story of these Olympians, watching the film and hearing the recounted stories and experiences of these athletes will shed new insights on an incredible story of strength and perseverance. Munich ’72 and Beyond, directed by Stephen Crisman and executive produced by Michael Cascio, tells the story of the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972.

The event known as the “Munich Massacre” was the first act of modern terrorism and became a historical turning point for not only for the Olympics, but for terrorism. In the documentary, family members, eyewitnesses, law enforcement, Olympic officials, Israelis, and Palestinians are all interviewed to recount the horrific crime that was committed in the summer of 1972.
The documentary uncovers negligence and misconduct of those involved with the case.  The families discuss the four-decades-long battle that went into creating a public memorial to recognize, remember, and tell the story of the loved ones who tragically lost their lives at the Olympic games of 1972.

Both documentaries will be screened at the Museum: Olympic Pride, American Prejudice on November 13 at 2 P.M. and Munich ’72 and Beyond on November 16 at 7 P.M. Admission is free and advance registration is recommended.