Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Changing of the Guard

After 32 years serving as Museum Chairman, Robert M. Morgenthau took on a new title, that of Chairman Emeritus, when he stepped down as Chairman at the June 19 Annual Meeting of the Board. Bruce C. Ratner has been named the new Museum Chairman.

Mr. Morgenthau has served as Chairman of the Board since 1982, one year after Mayor Koch created a Task Force to determine what kind of Holocaust memorial was needed in New York City.

Mr. Morgenthau said, “I’m so honored to have been part of the Museum’s creation and its ongoing vitality, and look forward to remaining involved for many years to come. I’m also thrilled that the Board has elected Bruce Ratner as Chairman. Bruce has long been a friend to me and the Museum. And most important, his vision for the Museum as an institution that teaches about 20th- and 21st-century Jewish history and the Holocaust in a way that is meaningful to a larger community is critical to the Museum’s commitment to the principles of education and social justice within the Jewish community and beyond.”

Under Mr. Morgenthau’s leadership, the Museum has experienced incredible growth and reach over three decades. The original building opened to the public in 1997, and the wing that bears his name opened in 2003, tripling the square feet of the institution and increasing the innovative programming offered.

Of his many accomplishments, there is one that shines as a tribute to an entire generation. His was the vision behind the award-winning exhibition Ours To Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War.
Just as Holocaust survivors did not begin to tell their stories until decades after the war ended, veterans, too, were unable to articulate fully the memories that dwelled deep within.

As with survivors, these memories become more precious as they become more scarce, and these experiences needed to be documented. The result was an extraordinary archive of memory, courage, and history. Mr. Morgenthau, a Navy veteran himself, wanted the world to know that Jews, on the battlefront and on the home front, came together to “rid the world of a monstrous evil.”

While Mr. Morgenthau became the voice for his generation of veterans, he was also the voice of resolute determination for New York City. At the reopening of the Museum after the September 11 attacks, he announced that construction would begin on the new wing in a matter of weeks, and in a single moment demonstrated not only his commitment to the future, but his unequaled leadership in a time of complete uncertainty.

The role of Chairman Emeritus was created for Mr. Morgenthau to recognize his long-standing and invaluable service to, and lasting impact on, the Museum. Museum Director Dr. David G. Marwell said, “Robert Morgenthau had a clear vision for the Museum from the very start and helped shape it into an important educational institution, and a vital place of memory. It was Bob’s belief that the Museum should not only relate the tragic history of the Holocaust, but should also celebrate Jewish life by exploring its variety and richness. He succeeded in creating an institution that has earned its place in the cultural landscape of New York City and its reputation as a crucial stop for all who believe that we must understand the past in order to navigate the future.”

Mr. Ratner said, “The Museum of Jewish Heritage, the building and the programs, will long stand as a monument to how the Morgenthau family has worked endlessly on behalf of the Jewish people — before and after the Holocaust. I strongly believe that Bob’s sense of justice and the power of the law are derived directly from his involvement with these issues.”

Mr. Ratner, who has served on the Board of Trustees since 1996, co-chaired the Building Committee with Peter Kalikow, and his firm, Forest City Ratner (FCR), provided pro bono construction project management for the Museum’s expansion in 2003. As the Chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1992 until 2001, he drew on his background as a developer and created a vibrant cultural district in the neighborhood of the immensely popular arts institution. Given the economic and construction boom currently taking place in Lower Manhattan with the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, 1 World Trade Center, and the development of Brookfield Place, this neighborhood is undergoing its own rebirth, and Mr. Ratner’s understanding of how culture drives the economy will only enhance the image of the Museum in this redesigned downtown.

As Executive Chairman of FCR, one of the largest urban real estate developers in the country, he has, over the last 25 years, developed 44 ground-up projects in the New York City area. He is the majority owner and developer of Barclays Center Arena, home of the Brooklyn Nets, the first major professional sports team to call Brooklyn home since the Dodgers left in 1957.

Mr. Ratner has been a forthright and generous supporter of the Museum, funding general operations and special exhibitions including Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 1933–1941, and was the co-honoree at the 2008 Heritage Dinner, when he announced from the stage, “The Museum is the most important philanthropy with which I am involved.” Mr. Ratner grew up in a Jewish home, the son of immigrants, whose family bore the scars of the Holocaust. After the war, Bruce’s mother committed herself to resettling survivors, finding homes for them and helping to create community for these newcomers. “Some of the survivors looked at my parents as their family, the kids were like our cousins. My mother most of all would remind us to Never Forget,” recalls Mr. Ratner.

Mr. Ratner currently serves on a number of boards, including Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Columbia University School of Law. He is the father of two daughters, Lizzy, a writer, and Rebbie, a filmmaker, has one grandson, Elias, and is married to Dr. Pamela Lipkin.

ABOVE LEFT: Museum Director Dr. David G. Marwell, Robert M. Morgenthau, and Trustee Judah Gribetz. ABOVE RIGHT: Bruce Ratner accepts the Heritage Award at the 2008 Heritage Dinner.
Photos by Melanie Einzig.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rudolf Kasztner: Hero or Villain?

1944 was a monumental year in Hungarian history;you have probably noticed a number of 70th anniversary commemorations this year. The efforts of one man in particular stand out. Rudolf Kasztner was a Hungarian Jew who negotiated with Adolf Eichmann to bring more than 1,6000 Hungarian Jews to safety by putting them on a train to Switzerland. It came to be known as Kasztner’s Train. Some viewed him as a hero; others as a traitor. After he moved to Israel, he was tried and convicted as “The Man who Sold His Soul to the Devil.” He was assassinated in 1957.

Director/Producer/Writer Gaylen Ross made a documentary about Kasztner in 2008. It is a documentary full of intrigue that illustrates that the line between hero and villain is often blurred. There are interviews with family and foe alike, including conversations with the assassin who broke his silence and revealed the plot that resulted in his killing Kasztner.

On June 30, this 2 DVD set will be available to the public on Amazon.com and the Killing Kasztner website. If you purchase the DVD on the Killing Kasztner website, and use code MJH, you will receive a 15% discount. There are more than three hours of bonus features including interviews with Kasztner survivors, and other key players who figure prominently in the story.

Learn much more about Kasztner and the film on the movie website www.killingkasztner.com.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Close Encounters of the Spielberg Kind: A Free Summer Film Series Launches This Week

This blog comes to us from Gabriel Sanders, who loves a good summer film.

It probably goes without saying that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of our time — or all time. But even Spielberg’s biggest fans can lose sight of just how long and varied his career has been. Our free film series, held in the beautiful and air-conditioned Edmond J. Safra Theater, is designed to help drive this point home.

We'll kick things off with Harrison Ford’s first turn as the swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones, in the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark (June 25). Set in 1936, the film follows Indy as he tries to track down the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.

From there, we move forward eight years to 1944, the Normandy landings, and Saving Private Ryan (July 2). After opening with what is considered one of the greatest battle scenes in cinema history, the film follows a group of U.S. soldiers behind enemy lines to retrieve a stranded paratrooper.

We’ll then time travel from World War II history to the realm of prehistory and the dinosaurs of Spielberg’s 1993 sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park (July 9). On July 16, we turn to the historical drama Amistad, the story of a slave-ship mutiny that became a Supreme Court case and key moment in the fight for abolition.

We then look to the stars and the UFOs of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (July 23).

As we near the mournful holy day of Tisha B’Av, we’ll screen Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, Schindler’s List (July 30).

During early August, amid the period affectionately known as Shark Week, we’ll screen Jaws (August 6). This screening is co-sponsored by the Young Friends of the Museum.

And finally, to wrap things up, we look back to outer space and head home with E.T. (August 13). Our High School Apprentices are co-sponsors of this film.

Movies will screen at 6:30 P.M. every Wednesday from June 25 through August 13. Fabulous raffle prizes will be given away at each screening.

The Museum’s public programs are made possible through a generous gift from Mrs. Lily Safra.

Image: Copyright Paramount Pictures

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

First Ever Museum Mile Downtown: A Night at the Museums on June 24

Lower Manhattan offers a wide range of rich cultural experiences, and on June 24 from 4:00-8:00 P.M., visitors can discover the best of Lower Manhattan’s cultural landscape for free. Fourteen museums and historic sites, including the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, will be participating in the River to River Festival’s Night at the Museums by offering free admission as well as an array of special programming.

Spend a summer evening immersed in New York City’s history, explore what makes the United States unique, discover new cultures, take a walking tour of the area, and enjoy discounts at local restaurants. All 14 institutions are within comfortable walking distance of one another. Many of the museums will offer special programming, including fun, family-friendly activities for kids, such as a scavenger hunt at the South Street Seaport Museum and creating replicas of famous historic documents at the National Archives.
Participating museums and historic sites include the African Burial Ground National Monument, The Anne Frank Center USA, Federal Hall National Memorial, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Museum of American Finance, Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, National Archives at New York City, National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian Institution, National September 11 Memorial Museum, NYC Municipal Archives Visitor Center, 9/11 Tribute Center, The Skyscraper Museum, South Street Seaport Museum, and Wall Street Walks.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum and Wall Street Walks require free advance ticket reservations, and will have a limited number of tickets available for walk-ups. Visit www.NightAtTheMuseums.org for details.

Pick up a Night at the Museums Passport on June 24 at participating institutions for special offers that are good all summer.

Night at the Museums is part of the 2014 River to River Festival, which features free arts events from June 19 to June 29 throughout Lower Manhattan. Over the course of 11 days, River To River brings 35 unique arts projects together including over 90 different artists. Visitors can discover the vibrancy of Lower Manhattan through a wide breadth of dance performances, live music, theater, writing classes, and more.
Learn more about Night at the Museums by visiting www.NightAtTheMuseums.org.