As a founding member of the National Museum of American Jewish History I was troubled to learn of the museum's decision regarding the discarding of time honored Shabbat observances. The museum's administration has decided to sell tickets on Shabbat, keep the café open and rent space for Friday night events. Also the café will no longer be kosher and non-kosher catering will be allowed. As if all those changes were not enough, it was decided to change the annual marketing label "Being Jewish on Christmas" to "Being __ on Christmas". They deleted the word 'Jewish' from their slogan but kept 'Christmas'.
The National Museum of American Jewish History kicks off an exciting January-February programs calendar with the upcoming special exhibition, opening January 15 — Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges.
This moving exhibition tells the little-known story of Jewish academics who came to America in the 1930s as refugees and found homes, work, and community at historically black colleges in the segregated South.
The following public programs held in conjunction with this exhibition provide an opportunity to further explore the themes found in the exhibition such as mentorship, leadership, identity, and cross-cultural understanding through music, film, theater, and great conversation. The season begins with our annual free Martin Luther King Family Day on Monday, January 21.
When you might think of Jewish cooking in America, you might conjure the iconic Ashkenazic staples of gefilte fish and noodle kugel, but the earliest Jewish cooking in the Americas was Sephardic, said Emily August, Public Programs Manager, in her role as moderator for a program, "Just a Pinch: A Brief and Unofficial History of Jewish Cooking in America," held on Wednesday at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Jews immigrating from Brazil brought their taste for almond pudding and fish fried in oil, which became a favorite food of our third president Thomas Jefferson, citing Ronit Treatman's article in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.
The music group The Sway Machine made its Philadelphia debut the evening of September 20, 2012, at the National Museum of American Jewish History, performing a cycle of songs titled "Hidden Melodies Revealed," which the group describes as "a secret celebration of Rosh HaShanah." For this Philadelphia performance, The Sway Machine was Jeremiah Lockwood (guitar, vocals, composition/storytelling), John Bollinger (drums), Stuart Bogie (tenor sax), Jordan McLean (trumpet), and Nikhil Yerawadekar (electric bass). Each of these musicians is a prolific performer and collaborator, with each other and with many another group. The group's 'sound', its ideal to which it is attuned and its traditional referential of origin, is a confluence and combination of various, call them, lineages of music: Klezmer, Jewish cantorial music (Jeremiah Lockwood is the grandson of cantor Jacob Konigsberg), the music of Mali guitarist, singer, and composer Ali Farka Toure, to name just these.
On Shabbat, my Rabbi challenged our kehillah (congregation) to do more to observe Independence Day than march in a parade. I love the Fourth of July, my second favorite American holiday after Thanksgiving. My family invites our friends and neighbors to watch the neighborhood parade that passes in front of our home with us, but how else to celebrate? Well, before writing this piece, I wrote a letter of thanks to President Obama and inserted it into the mailbox set up at the special exhibit on To Bigotry No Sanction, now at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Teshuvah (repentance) is a prominent Jewish value, but what happens when a high Ku Klux Klan high official renounces his life? The world premiere of the opera, Slaying the Dragon, was heralded by a Q&A session with a panel consisting of: Ellen Frankel, the librettist and managing director of Center City Opera Theater; Kathryn Watterson, author of Not by the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman on which the opera is based; and Bob Wolfson, Associate National Director of Regional Operations for the Anti-Defamation League and formerly the local ADL officer in charge of Lincoln, Nebraska where the events took place. The panel discussion took place on Sunday, June 3 at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Now on display at the Free Library's main branch is a traveling exhibit from the Holocaust Memorial Museum on how the Nazis used science to justify their contemptible work, titled Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. I was horrified to learn that all German geneticists believed in eugenics, including the Jewish ones such as Dr. Richard Goldschmidt (who re-established himself at the University of California at Berkeley). This felt devastatingly comparable to discovering in the permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History that there had been rabbis of the American South who supported slavery.
Museum will be open on Wednesday, April 11 until 8 p.m. during holiday
In celebration of the holiday of Passover, the National Museum of American Jewish History will have evening hours for the first time on Wednesday, April 11, when it will be open until 8 p.m. Visitors to the Museum can pay what they wish. The Museum café and store will also be open that night. The store will be offering a discount of 20 percent on Passover items on the 11th and the café will be kosher for Passover that night and for the duration of the holiday.
In addition, throughout the holiday, visitors will be provided with a Passover family guide that explores themes related to the holiday in the Museum's core exhibition. The family guide will prompt discussions about the holiday and the parallels between the story of Passover and the story of freedom that is told throughout the three floors of the Museum's core exhibition.
Each activity in the guide begins with a quote from the Haggadah (the booklet that guides the order of the Passover Seder while retelling the story of Exodus.) The family guide also contains questions geared to parents, non-family visitors, and older teens and includes definitions of the ritual objects and other items associated with Passover.
The twentieth annual Equality Forum is being held in Philadelphia. This year this global LGBT summit is highlighting the achievements of the State of Israel in giving equal opportunities to all sexual orientations.
Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking conference that focused on an emerging civil rights movement into the annual Equality Forum recognized as the premier annual national and international LGBT summit.
Israel as the featured nation will be represented by the Ambassador to the U.S., major Israeli LGBT leaders, and Tel Aviv DJs and entertainers."
The annual Equality Forum includes 25 panels, International Equality Dinner, SundayOUT! at The Piazza, six parties, 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit, theater, and special events. There is no registration fee and all panels are free.
Details of the Featured Nation Israel Programs follow the jump.
Bananas feature prominently in immigrant lore. They were not found in the Old World, so people fresh-off-the-boat did not know how to eat them, often trying to eat the peel too. [Banana cart, 1900, Library of Congress]
— by Hannah Lee
As part of a series on immigrant history, the National Museum of American Jewish History and the University of Pennsylvania's Jewish Studies program convened a panel of scholars on February 9th titled, "Getting Ahead: Immigrants, Business, and Ethnic Identity." Three scholars presented the experience of Jewish, Italian, and Korean arrivals in America.
Hasia Diner of New York University said that Jewish historians have been reticent to study the impact of business on immigrant life when, in fact, business was a major lure to America. It's a rich window to understand the communal experience, providing an "inside/outside" focus with businesses that met the needs of their people, the "co-ethnics," as well as businesses that served as liaisons to American society.
These entrepreneurs often became their communities' leaders, as founders of synagogues and backers of charitable programs. Their stores were their communities' initial meeting places. In 1909, a group of mothers in Boston's South End met at Hyman Danzig's Three and Nine Cent store and dedicated themselves to improving health care in their poor neighborhood. Their efforts lead to the establishment that year of a 45-bed hospital, Beth Israel, which later expanded and became Harvard University Medical School's teaching facility. In modern times, these ethnic businesses still draw people back from the suburbs to the original neighborhoods in the cities.
Tal Shochat, Rimon (Pomegranate), 2010, C-Print, 48.25 x 51 inches, Courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery, N.Y.
— by Hannah Lee
Just in time for Tu B'Shevat (the Jewish New Year of Trees) on February 8th, the The National Museum of American Jewish History is featuring an exhibit of prints of trees from the "In Praise of a Dream" series by Israeli artist Tal Shochat.
The exhibit developed through a confluence of motives. One was an intent to creatively use a long wall in their downstairs gallery to bring in visitors, who could then explore the many artistic and historical artifacts in the new museum, which opened in November, 2010. At the time, the Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea, New York was exhibiting Shochat's work. The Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections, Dr. Joshua Perelman (not the grandson of the same name of the philanthropists Ruth and Raymond Perelman) arranged for a loan of seven of the largest prints in the series, which will be on display through Earth Day, April 22nd.
Today we observe Veterans Day. May we all remember and honor the service given to our country by these brave men and women in uniform. They upheld the values of our country and, as young as they were when sent into service, they gave it all they had. We owe it to them to remember their service.
On October 18th, I attended a ceremony dedicated to the 14 Jewish chaplains who'd fallen during service to the United States. Their names are engraved on a plaque that was on exhibit that day at the National Museum of American Jewish History and a week later was installed on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery. The moving moment for me was the sight of the aged veterans, in full military regalia, snap to attention and salute the flag while we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Being a child of the 60's, I grew up in an era when we distrusted authority (and anyone over 30). Saying the Pledge was perfunctory and maybe also ironic. Singing the national anthem invariably induced some jokester to call out, "Play ball." But it was no joke for these veterans of America's wars. They remember their fallen comrades and why they were posted to foreign lands, regardless of whether it was the right strategic move. The values they upheld were of civic and religious freedom (and the "pursuit of happiness" which our religious forefathers did not mean the right to shop until we drop).
Rembrandt's Head of Christ Philadelphia Museum of Art
-- By Hannah Lee
When I learned that the National Museum of American Jewish History would be collaborating with the Philadelphia Museum of Art on an interfaith forum and conversation about the Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibit at the art museum, I was eager to sign up. So much has been written about this exhibit, both in secular press (New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer) as well as the Jewish press (Tablet and Forward). It is a topic that is not surprisingly fascinating to Jews, as Jesus was born of Jewish parents and so much strife over the centuries have been waged in his name by descendants of his apostles. It was thrilling to be in the audience with members of the other faiths, in a harmonious conversation about a religious icon and symbol, because we usually only are taught by members of our own faiths.
Larry Silver, Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, moderated the interfaith panel discussion, and he launched it with a query from his curator friend who asked, "why not the head of Christ?" He proceeded to answer it himself by pointing out the works of Rembrandt represented a movement away from iconography towards a more human portrayal of Jesus, and the face is the window onto the human soul. He then presented to us in the audience and the panel members (on a separate monitor) about 13 paintings of Jesus, only one of which was by Rembrandt.
Reflect. React Renew Life's Biggest Questions. Answered by you.
-- by Tanya Schevitz
In an era where most reflection happens publicly in 140 characters or less, the 10Q project provides a private, deeper online forum for personal reflection beyond the waffles you had for breakfast.
Timed to coincide with the Jewish New Year, traditionally a time of introspection and self-reflection, 10Q is a unique project that, started today, will email participants of all backgrounds a question a day about the year that's past and the year to come. After the 10-day period, the answers are sent into a digital vault. A year later, the answers are returned to participants and the process begins again.
"Thanks to new technologies like texting and Twitter, people have more opportunities than ever to express themselves, but fewer than ever to express themselves well," said 10Q co-founder Ben Greenman, a New Yorker editor. "What 10Q wants people to do is what people should want to do for themselves -- to reflect on life without worrying about status updates."
Last Thursday, 10Q partnered with the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia on a roundtable discussion at the Museum on reflection. 10Q's Greenman moderated a panel including the Hebrew Mamita, Vanessa Hidary, and authors Charles London and Matthue Roth.
While the 10Q project is a reinvention of the ancient ritual of reflection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and occurs during the Jewish High Holidays, it is intended for people of all backgrounds and has attracted participation of people of many denominations, including Catholics, Episcopalians, Buddhists and Muslims. The 10Q questions are about your place on the planet, and the planet's place within you.
And regrets are universal, so the events are intended for people to absolve themselves of everything from skipping services to that tweet you wish you never posted.
Join popular author of Go the F-k to Sleep and critically acclaimed novelist Adam Mansbach in a conversation about his ongoing journey as a young writer, the intersection of Black and Jewish cultures... and, of course, his reaction to the success of his recent non-traditional parenting book.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011, 7:00pm
National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA.
Members $10, Non-members $12
Adam's novels include The End of the Jews: A Novel, winner of the California Book Award, and the best-selling Angry Black White Boy: A Novel, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2005. His fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Believer, Granta, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.
As part of a lecture series at the National Museum of American Jewish History, this past Tuesday evening was a session titled, "Challenges to American Jewish Leaders Today." The featured panelists were Dr. Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and winner of the esteemed Covenant Award for her work in Jewish education, and Dr. Steven Cohen, research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU.
Philadelphia Israeli Consul General Daniel Kutner held a celebration of Israel's 63rd anniversary at the National Museum of American Jewish History, and hundreds of area residents and VIPs turned out.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter (left) joined Consul General Daniel Kutner (right) for the celebration.
Sam Katz, Rabbi Aaron Landis, Councilman Jim Kenney, and Joseph Zuritsky (left to right) were among the people who came to the National Museum of American Jewish History to celebrate Israel's 63rd anniversary.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the National Museum of American Jewish History presented Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Gray, a first-of-its-kind documentary that reveals the little-known struggles that faced Jewish-Americans both in battle and on the home front during the Civil War. This film reveals an unknown chapter in American history when allegiances during the War Between the States deeply split the Jewish community. It examines a time when approximately 10,000 Jewish soldiers fought on both sides; 7,000 Union and 3,000 Confederate. It exposes General Ulysses Grant's controversial decision to expel all Jews from his territory, and tells the stories of President Lincoln's Jewish doctor who serve as a spy in the South and how five Union Jewish soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor. It features commentary by noted historians, with Sam Waterston as the voice of Abraham Lincoln and narration by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now).
This moving film allowed me to discover many surprising facts about American Jews during the Civil War.
One hundred years ago on March 25th, 1911, the Triangle Waist Company in New York City erupted in flames, and the resulting deaths of 146 people, mostly Jewish and Italian women immigrant workers, many of them teenage girls, galvanized a city and a movement. The Triangle fire was a watershed moment in the history of the American Jewish labor movement and social reform.
On March 24, 2011, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN), the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO and the National Museum of American Jewish History are joining forces to commemorate this tragic event, honor those who gave their lives and discuss the evolution of the labor and reform movements that the Triangle fire inspired.
Join us for this extraordinary program, including a documentary film about the fire and its aftermath and viewing of the first floor exhibit at the new National Museum of American Jewish History. Hear about JSPAN's new initiative to advance the Kosher Clothes movement here. Tickets are $36 (students $18) but seating is limited. Advance ticket purchase is absolutely necessary from Ruthanne Madway, JSPAN Executive Director, 215-546-3732
Schoolchildren of the early 19th century were punished for speaking any language other than English. We've come a long way in our tolerance of differences. (My mother-in-law says that someone who speaks English with an accent knows at least one other language, a dig at the monolingual Americans.) We've changed our perspective in cultural assimilation and the iconic image is no longer of the melting pot, but the salad bowl, in which the ingredients are separate and distinct.
It was a chilly windy Sunday. My wife and I had just spent four hours on the top two floors of the new National Museum of Jewish American History on Independence Mall, reviewing artifacts like a deerskin frontier Torah, relearning timelines of Jewish settlement in Philadelphia, New Orleans, South Carolina and Florida. It was a lot of material to take in and to keep straight. It was in some ways a relief to drive down towards the Franklin Parkway, to attend the book launch I had committed to review for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, for a very different and much more personal sort of history, at The Jewish Publication Society.
Just finding a place to sit down was something of a relief. Rabbi Barry Schwartz of The Jewish Publication Society, which published Joan Sohn's 36 Letters, One Family's Story, gave a brief introduction to JPS's decision to publish this family history. Rabbi Andrea Merow, currently of Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, spoke of Temple Sholom's involvement with the Korman family where she had earlier held the pulpit, and the dedication of its chapel to Sohn's great-grandfather Rabbi Binyamin Korman. She spoke of her friendship with Sohn and her encouragement for elaborating the family story.
Then Joan Sohn herself was introduced, to present a brief outline of her delightful, focused yet whimsical history of her grandparents' romance -- of their immigration estrangement while Chaim came to New York, and of Yente's arrival to live first with her uncle's Philadelphia family, and of their joyous reunion and marriage when Chaim came from New York and established
himself in the community.
"Being Jewish at Christmas" will include the music of Jon Nelson's Rockin' Kids Review, returning this year to rock the house in the 200-seat Dell Theater.
"Being Jewish at Christmas," featuring music, comedy and more, is being held this year on Friday, December 24 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. in order not to conflict with the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, Dec. 25. Performances begin at 11 a.m. and will repeat at noon and 1 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for Youths (13-21), Seniors (65+) and Active Military. Children (12 and under) are free. Membership (including free admission for one year) is $54 for an individual, $72 for a couple and $90 for a household.
Tickets are also available for purchase on the specific Saturday of a visit at the Independence Visitor Center (IVC), located at Market and 6th streets, a block away from the Museum. Tickets will not be sold at the Museum on Saturdays. The Saturday ticketing policy was instituted by the Museum in recognition of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath).
The Museum opens to the public on Friday, Nov. 26. Visiting hours at the Museum are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On all days, ticket sales and admittance to the Museum cease half an hour before closing time.
After his remarks at festivities celebrating the grand opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia's Old City, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden invited Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, director of the city's Lubavitcher Center and chairman of the umbrella organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad, to join him at the stage.
According to Shemtov, who also serves as chairman of the umbrella organization of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the vice president's remarks were poignant. They encapsulated the Rebbe's insistence that not only Jews living in America, but all Americans, remain steadfast in - as the words in the Declaration of Independence state - their "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."
-- Joshua Runyan
Drawn by the chance to celebrate 350 years of American Jewish history at the newest addition to the most historic square mile in the nation's first capital, hundreds of people from across the country descended on Philadelphia to hear Vice President Joseph Biden announce that a new museum's Jewish stories were, in fact, manifestations of distinctly American ideals.
"In telling the story of the American Jewish experience, this museum in my view, tells the story of America's identity," Biden said Sunday at festivities in front of the new $150 million home of the National Museum of American Jewish History.
In hailing the contributions of a host of American Jews, Biden - a Scranton, Pa., native who represented neighboring Delaware in the U.S. Senate before ascending to the White House - quoted from a diary entry written by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, upon his 1940 departure from Lisbon, Portugal, and much-awaited arrival in the United States. The diary page is on permanent display in the museum's "Only in America" exhibit, along with two other items connected to the Chabad-Lubavitch leader. (The museum also highlights the contributions of 17 other Jewish figures, including Dr. Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein.)
"We have to heed the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson," stated Biden. "We should not satisfy ourselves with what we have accomplished and we should always strive to realize the potentials and abilities that G-d has given us to perfect the world.
"This is the message that the museum will spread to the whole world."
After his remarks, the vice president instructed his Secret Service agents to invite Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the director of the Lubavitcher Center in Philadelphia, to make his way from the audience and join him at the stage. The two embraced for several minutes.
Along with the diary entry, the museum's display includes a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded in 1995 on occasion of the Rebbe's birthday and corresponding National Education Day, and a dollar that the Rebbe gave businessman Ronald Perelman to signify his participation in the philanthropist's charitable distributions. On that bill, the Rebbe circled the words "In G-d We Trust," and in an attached letter, empowered Perelman to be an emissary to "spread the proclamation on the bill."
The Rebbe's guidance, noted Shemtov, strengthened a modern spiritual awakening on these shores and inspired generations of Jewish activists and leaders.
One of the great mysteries surrounding the evolution of the new National Museum of American Jewish History site was solved at a press preview right before the official opening and dedication of NMAJH. For months I had been wondering - how could Patrick Gallagher, the "interpretive designer" who worked so closely with Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita, the board of trustees, and the new CEO Michael Rosenzweig, have translated the vision of Goodman and her board into the amazing new building on Inde
I mean - you don't have to be Jewish to love bagels and lox. But do you have to be Jewish to interpret the history of Jews in America into a museum which will speak to all ages, all ethnic groups, all different expressions of Judaism, all the immigrant groups in American society?
Some of the older artifacts in the new museum, like this pile of immigrant suitcases, look outstanding in their new home.
So I asked Gallagher, as he stood next to Goodman, after the press conference. And he answered, "I'm Jewish!" Now at first I thought he was joking - until Goodman confirmed that yes, indeed, Patrick was Jewish. Gallagher had converted to Judaism in his twenties when he was getting married.
And like other people who have studied their way into Judaism, instead of simply having been born into the religion, Gallagher probably knows a lot more about Jewish history, traditions, customs and practices than many of those born Jewish.
Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Patrick Gallagher, the interpretive designer of the new museum.
For ten years, Goodman and her board worked with Gallagher & Associates, in creating the core exhibition. The new museum has been designed by the internationally acclaimed architectural firm Polshek Partnership Architects.
The grand opening gala will feature performances by Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld, along with seminars by academics and a ribbon-cutting featuring Vice President Joe Biden. Nearly one thousand patrons and sponsors will attend the gala concert and dinner, with national figures flying in from around the country.
And as Polshek explained, the beacon atop the glass and terra cotta structure will act as a reflection of the Statue of Liberty's torch, a call to freedom; a reminder of the Eternal LIght which shines in every synagogue around the world; as well as a reflection of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, American icons of freedom, just across the street from the new National Museum of American Jewish History.
The move to Independence Mall included the 19th century statue, now situated on the Caroline and Sidney Kimmel Plaza, which was a gift from the Jewish community of Philadelphia.
A glittering jewel has been added to the crown of Philadelphia' s national historic treasures. The National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and preserving the American Jewish experience. If location is everything, this one has it all. Placed right next to the sites where our very freedoms were conceived, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center, it tells a story uniquely American and distinctly Jewish, but one that will resonate with other immigrant ethnic groups who also flourished within the context of liberty and freedom. The 100,000 square foot building itself, a façade of five gleaming glass stories, sends a vibrant message: Jews in America need not hide behind high walls; Jews have been woven into American society. Jews are free to practice Judaism in a multitude of manners, out in the open. The glass exterior and the windows that look out on Independence Mall symbolize transparency as well as the fragility of democracy; Americans must steadfastly protect these values for everyone.
Garrett Reisman, with his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, who was the first Jewish member of the space station crew, went up the first time in 2008 where he was able to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary. Israeli President Shimon Peres gave him the symbol of State of Israel to take with him for the occasion. His second trip was just in May of this year, where he and a fellow astronaut had to do a space walk in order to install an additional module to the space station.
The National Museum of American Jewish History hosted Reisman in a special event which was the first to be convened in the not-yet-completed new site of NMAJH. Reisman, dressed in a flight suit, entranced the crowd of founding members of the museum with his stories of his space flight and one very interesting challenge he encountered in trying to install the new module on the space station.
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