Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Upcoming at the Museum of Jewish Heritage

This blog comes from Esther Moerdler, our college intern in the Communications Department.
David Krakauer in "The Big Picture," photo credit Melanie Einzig

There are many great programs coming up in September and October at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – here are just a few highlights we would like to share with you:

The Museum will screen two films in tandem with our exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. The first is Different from the Others, a silent film from 1919 in which two male musicians fall in love. This film sought to expose the injustices of Germany’s anti-gay laws. Banned at the time of its release and later burned by the Nazis, Different from the Others is one of the few sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals from this era of cinema. This groundbreaking film will be shown on September 10 at 7 P.M. Later in September, join us for a 15th anniversary screening of Paragraph 175. This documentary tells the story of how gay men and lesbians went from being a part of a vibrant subculture of artists and intellectuals in Germany to being systematically persecuted under the Nazi regime. Both films include free admission for ticketholders to Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 prior to the screening.

From October 25 – November 1, the Museum will host a Polish film series, The Unknown Holocaust: Recent Polish Films. The fall of communism ushered in a new era of candid and artistically accomplished Polish filmmaking about the Holocaust. This week-long series presents features, documentaries, and short films rarely seen in the United States. Discussions with experts follow the screenings. The all-access pass will allow you to see any or even all of the films for only $15, $12 for Members. For a complete listing of the films and accompanying discussions, click here.

On September 9 at 7 P.M., eminent historian Timothy Snyder of Yale University will speak about his new book Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which chronicles the humanitarian risks we face in the 21st century in the context of the history of the Holocaust.

Popular podcast Person Place Thing is also making its way to the Museum. Randy Cohen will host a live-recording of the podcast as he interviews clarinetist David Krakauer on Wednesday, October 7 at 7 P.M. We’re keen to find out what person, place, and thing are meaningful to this great musician. 

On October 21 author Roger Cohen will discuss his new book The Girl from Human Street. Cohen traces his family history across continents and reveals vital patterns of struggle and resilience. Tickets are $12; free for Members. 

Grammy-nominated clarinetist David Krakauer will return to the Museum for a limited engagement of his vibrant concert The Big Picture. In this cinematic concert, Krakauer adds his contemporary style to beloved songs from films ranging from Funny Girl and Fiddler on the Roof to Sophie's Choice and The Pianist.

To buy tickets and for more up-to-date information on programs, please visit our calendar page. We hope to see you!  

Friday, July 31, 2015

MJH at the Disability Pride Parade

This blog is from Yael Friedman, Museum Educator.

On Sunday, July 12, Shu, one of our High School Apprentices, and I participated in New York City’s first annual Disability Pride Parade in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We marched with the Museum Access Consortium (MAC) from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park. Representatives from more than 10 cultural institutions joined the MAC contingent.

Despite the heat, there was a tremendous showing at the parade. It was remarkable to see the enthusiasm and determination of thousands of parade participants, many of whom are disabled. The NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities ensured accommodations for people with different types of disabilities. Many signs addressed challenges that people with disabilities face in their everyday life and the desire to be treated equally. For example, one sign stated "Treat me the way you want to be treated." Not only was this a celebration, it was an educational experience for those unfamiliar with the needs and perspectives of people with disabilities.

During the parade, I held the MAC banner as Shu ran up and down the street giving out Museum flyers and our calendar of events. MAC participants chanted “museums for all” as we made our way down Broadway. Shu cheerfully engaged with all of the supporters lined up alongside the parade and introduced them to the Museum. She reflected that, “Many people said thank you back, which was probably a courteous gesture in others' eyes, but to me, it really meant my work had an impact on them. I had long conversations with a few people on the sidewalk and in the parade. The onlookers were so pleased that people with disabilities are better accommodated in public spaces now than they were 25 years ago, before the ADA. I was also impressed by such advances in society. It was moving to share my happiness with them and be part of this historical moment.”

The Museum has worked with the American Sign Language (ASL) community over the past year, and it has been very successful. We consistently have a large showing at events and have been fortunate to work with three deaf Museum Educators who lead tours in ASL and Russian Sign Language for deaf visitors. Our focus this year is on expanding our programs for people with visual impairments.

A new season of programs for the ASL community will begin in the fall. Bookmark our ASL programs page and check back in September for new ASL events.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Designing Home" Artifacts in Everyday Life

This blog is from Danielle Charlap, our Associate Curator.

Whenever I take groups through the Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism exhibition, everyone shares a knowing look when we get to Henry Dreyfuss. Whether or not visitors recognize Dreyfuss’s name, they certainly recognize his designs. We are lucky to have four of his products on display: the Honeywell Thermostat (c. 1953), Big Ben Alarm Clock (1939), Princess Phone (c. 1959), and Oxford Sink (1945). 

Dreyfuss was incredibly committed to making modern design user-friendly. To better understand how humans interacted with products, Dreyfuss studied the body and movement. He even created two graphical representations he named Joe and Josephine whose measurements were based on his research. He used this information to think about how to make products as ergonomic and practical as possible for their owners.

We see Dreyfuss’s user-centered approach reflected in his thermostat and phone design. Trying to help homeowners avoid unsightly crooked thermostat installations, Dreyfuss thought to make the thermostat round. This shape also comfortably fit in the user’s hand for easy thermostat adjustments. And not only did Dreyfuss’s Princess phone have a light-up dial to make it easier to see, but the same number dial could also be used as a night light. No wonder these products have remained popular for so long! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Joining the Staff and the Museum’s Free Tuesday Afternoon Tour

This post comes to us from Ruth Frankel, our new Communications Assistant, who in an effort to familiarize herself with the collection, joined a Museum tour.

Having explored the Museum on my own accompanied only by the voices of Meryl Streep and Itzhak Perlman, narrators of the Museum’s free audio tour, I was excited to learn more from a real-live Gallery Educator. On the second day of my new job, David Zagor was the tour guide.

Throughout the tour, David used dialogue to teach us. To start the tour, he asked why we thought the Museum was called a “Living Memorial to the Holocaust” rather than just a “history” of the Holocaust. As the tour reached completion in Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones, he asked the youngest member of the tour, a girl of about 9 or 10 years old, “What does it mean – trees growing out of rocks?” This type of questioning allowed for meaningful conversation amongst the group.

CAPTION : Gallery Educator David Zagor introduces himself to a group of visitors before leading them on a tour Tuesday, June 30th.

The tour was diverse in audience. Londoners Penny Jones and her daughter Ellie sought out the Museum during their week-long visit to New York. Over a period of two years, Ellie had studied the Holocaust for her A-level exams, which she had just completed to finish high school. Though both visitors made it clear they were riveted by the Museum’s content, upon finishing the tour, they praised David’s inclusion of family stories. Penny told David, whose mother-in-law is a survivor, “Listening to you speak about your family was very important.”

Like the Jones family, I, too, was moved by David’s personal approach. As a new member of the Communications department, I am interested in different ways to tell stories and how to share the unique experiences that the Museum has to offer. I look forward to learning more on future tours from other Gallery Educators.  

Free guided tours are offered with admission every Tuesday at 3 P.M. Click here to learn more about tours of the Museum.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hanukkah Guests: A Lovely Story to End the Holiday

This blog comes to us from Samira, our Manager of Strategic Initiatives, who recently had an unexpectedly lovely Hanukkah moment while at the Association for Jewish Studies meeting.

On the first night of Hanukkah, I found myself in Baltimore, having dinner with the Paula E. Hyman Mentoring Program. It was the last night of what had been, for many of us, a busy conference.
We gathered in the back room of the Black Olive, a charming Greek fish restaurant owned by the Spiliadises, an elderly couple who greeted us as guests at their home. 

Anne Lapidus Lerner, the director of the program, had called ahead to make sure we could light a menorah all together.  When we arrived, we found that our hosts had arranged for us to have a table with a piece of tin foil laid out, ready to protect the table cloth from falling wax, and a box of matches.  One of the participants, Vanessa Ochs, lit the menorah and discussed the ritual, and we all chanted the blessings then sang “Maoz Tzur.” At some point, I realized that we had an audience. Mr. and Mrs. Spiliadis and several of their wait staff were standing in the doorway in reverence.

When we were done, as they brought the appetizers than Anne had ordered ahead of time, Mr. Spiliadis excitedly announced that in honor of the first night of Hanukkah and our presence in the restaurant, his wife had made a “special, Greek latke” to replace the restaurant’s normal side dishes. Mrs. Spiliadis had spent time researching recipes online and lovingly doing prep work in order to present us with a thick sweet potato pancake, full of Greek spices, and served with a side of Greek yogurt.  The proud and delighted hospitality made that potato pancake one of the best I have ever eaten.

As we left, Mr. Spiliadis stood in the hallway shaking our hands and marveling, “A Jewish festival holiday! In my restaurant! My Greek restaurant! This is what makes America great.” As he shook our hands, he told us that we had honored him, his wife, and their restaurant by coming to celebrate with them.  

I never knew the late Paula Hyman, for whom the mentoring program is named, but she was one of the best scholars of American Judaism of her generation. When I posted an abbreviated version of this story to Facebook, her students and her daughter told me how much she would have loved the encounter.

Spend December 25 with Us: Win Two Tickets to Joshua Nelson and His Kosher Gospel Choir

Come join us on December 25 for a full day of concerts, tours, and exhibitions.  
Click on the link below to win two concert tickets
to hear Joshua Nelson and His Kosher Gospel Choir

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Menorah Saved by Polish Jewish Community Near Auschwitz

In honor of Hanukkah this month, we will spotlight one of the Auschwitz Jewish Center's most treasured artifacts: a menorah. The AJC is the Museum's affiliate in Poland. We invite you to learn more about their important work.

In 2004, Polish archaeologists began a dig at the site of the former Great Synagogue in Oświęcim, just a few minutes’ walk from the Auschwitz Jewish Center.
More than 400 objects were discovered during the excavation, including a menorah, which became a symbol of the AJC and their work. It is believed that the Jewish community buried these objects before Nazis destroyed the synagogue in November 1939.
In addition to the menorah, other objects were found: candlesticks, the Ner Tamid (Hebrew: Eternal Light) lamp, a plaque listing names of individuals who likely were synagogue donors, and other object fragments.
Today, a plaque marks the site of the former synagogue and its ruins. As the largest and most important Jewish house of prayer at the turn of the twentieth century in Oświęcim, the 2,000-seat Great Synagogue – and its surviving artifacts – symbolizes the vibrant Jewish life that once existed in the town.

Sign up for the AJC's newsletter to read more stories like this one and to learn about their programs, exhibitions, and educational offerings.

Photo courtesy of the AJC.