Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Help Us Give Muslim and Jewish Fifth Graders Something to Celebrate on Giving Tuesday

This blog is from Amanda, our Manager of Curriculum and Teacher Programs.

Last April, in a bowling alley in Queens, two 5th graders exchanged email addresses written on napkins.  It doesn’t sound like an extraordinary event. Many kids across the country stay in touch with their friends via email. But a seemingly ordinary event like this one became less so: one of these students was Muslim, and one was Jewish. They go to religious schools in different neighborhoods. It is very likely the two might not have ever met, but both were participants in our Interfaith Living Museum program.

The Interfaith Living Museum program brings together 80 fifth graders from four schools, two Jewish (Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and Kinneret Day School) and two Muslim (Al-Ihsan Academy and Islamic Leadership School). Over the course of a semester, the students work together to learn about how artifacts can teach us about heritage and bring in artifacts from their own homes to teach each other. They visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a mosque, a synagogue, and each other’s schools. To help students get to know each other better, we also have a Social Day, in which the students get the opportunity to bowl, eat pizza, and get to know each other in a less formal environment. The program culminates in an exhibition of their artifacts, arranged thematically (“How We Pray,” “Food and Faith,” etc.). We hope that they learn more about their own backgrounds, as well as learn more about each other and find that despite differences, there are many similarities.

And we also hope that, as a result of the time spent together, friendships like these form. More rewarding than seeing students articulate lessons learned about their heritage are the lessons learned about each other, most importantly that it is possible, despite the differences they perceive, to form friendships and find common ground. Without the Interfaith Living Museum, these students would not have had the opportunity to meet and form these friendships.

There is no cost to the schools to participate in this important program. In order to continue providing funding, the Museum is asking for donations to help keep the program free for participants. We hope that you will join us in supporting the Interfaith Living Museum on December 2, Giving Tuesday. For more information, please visit

Photo by Melanie Einzig

Monday, November 3, 2014

Recipe from Janna Gur's new book: Jewish Soul Food

It's no secret that one of our favorite things to do is to share recipes. This one, by Janna Gur, is perfect for a chilly November night. Her anticipated new book is Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh and she'll be at the Museum on Sunday November 23 at 2:30 p.m. to chat about it.

PLAU B’JEEJ | Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice (Iraqi)

First the chicken is cooked in water, tomato paste, and spices, then the spiced cooking liquid is used to make delicious red rice. Clever, huh? And there is more: While the rice is cooking, the chicken is shredded; slowly sautéed with onions, almonds, and raisins; and then served over the rice. Grandma’s cooking at its best! Save any leftover red rice—it makes a delicious side for beef, chicken, and fish dishes.

Serves 4 to 6
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
5 cups water
7 ounces (200 g) tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of hot paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of hot paprika or ground turmeric (optional)
1 teaspoon baharat spice mix (see recipe below or store-bought)
½ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
½ cup golden raisins
For garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¹⁄³ cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)

1. Place the chicken legs in a medium saucepan. Mix the water, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and cayenne (if using) in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Par­tially cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 1 hour over low heat until the chicken is tender. Toward the end of cooking, taste and season with salt.
2. While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Rinse in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander.
3. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Measure 3½ cups of hot cooking liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add 1 heaping teaspoon salt. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover tightly, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. While the rice is cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large shallow sauce-pan. Add the sliced onions and sauté over medium-low heat until soft and golden, at least 10 minutes. Season with salt, a dash of turmeric (if using), and the baharat.
5. When the chicken is cooled enough to be handled with bare hands, remove and discard the skin and the bones. Shred the meat into small pieces and add to the onions. Add the almonds and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat. Add the raisins and sauté for another minute.
6. Prepare the garnish (if using) Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and toss the almonds until golden and crisp. To serve, mound the chicken and onion mixture over the rice and garnish with toasted almonds.

Homemade Baharat
Baharat spice mix is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, specialty markets, and online. You can also make your own. Grinding whole spices is ideal, but preground ones are fine, too.
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
teaspoons ground allspice
teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Keep in a cool, dark place in an airtight jar. Use for meatballs, stuffed vegetables, and meat-filled pastries.  

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Cover photo by Daniel Lailah.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Q&A with the Director of Karski & The Lords of Humanity

On Wednesday, November 19 at 7 p.m., the Museum  will welcome director Slawomir Grünberg for a screening and discussion of his new film, Karski & the Lords of Humanity.

The film tells the story of Jan Karski, the Polish resistance fighter who risked his life to reveal the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto. This innovative documentary in English and Polish sheds light on Karski’s daring exploits and important legacy 100 years after his birth.

Watch the trailer here.

We’re grateful that Mr. Grünberg took the time to answer some of our questions about the film’s subject and his unique way of portraying Karksi’s life using animation.

MJH: Why you were drawn to Karski’s story

Slawomir Grünberg: Jan Karski is an example of a modern day hero. I wanted to present an earnest portrait of a man who juggled between life and death while fulfilling a desperate mission to stop the annihilation of European Jews. As a member of the Polish underground during World War II, Karski took a huge risk by infiltrating the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi transit camp. There he witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust in order to carry a first-hand report to the Western Allies and the world’s leaders. When I first heard the story, I was very inspired that this extraordinary individual was only 25 years old at the time of his mission.” 

MJH: What you hope audiences will walk away thinking or feeling about his life and legacy? 

SG: We hope our audience will be diverse, not only in terms of age, but also in terms of religion, ethnicity, and cultural background. We would like the viewers to learn about Karski’s World War II mission, and also come away with an appreciation of Karski’s contribution to the humanities. We are especially interested in engaging university and high-school students. We are reaching out to them via Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. Having presented excerpts from the work-in-progress, we are receiving very positive responses to the use of animation in the project, especially from educators who continue to approach us expressing their desire to use the completed film in their work.

MJH:  We’d love to hear a little about why you chose to partially animate the film.

SG: My inspiration to use animation in my project was the Israeli film "Waltz with Bashir," which I found extremely moving. A similar innovative fusion of technologies was employed by our team to create a unique film reality, and to bring Karski’s compelling story to life.

The film employs animation intertwined with documentary scenes and archival footage, including authentic voice-over by Jan Karski himself. Thanks to the animation techniques, we are able to recreate the events, which took place during Karski’s World War II mission including his treacherous visit to the Warsaw Ghetto, where he witnessed the indignities and traumas to which Jews were being subjected in Nazi-occupied Poland only months preceding the Final Solution. 

 The film is presented with the Polish Cultural Institute and the Jan Karski Educational Foundation.

Image courtesy of Slawomir Grünberg.