For Lenny

“Expect glamor with substance” 
— David Patrick Stearns – WQXR: New York’s Classical Music Station on Lara’s new album “For Lenny: an Intimate Tribute to Leonard Bernstein and his American Legacy”

Acclaimed pianist and recording artist Lara Downes brings Leonard Bernstein to life through Lenny’s lesser-known “Anniversaries for Piano” and new works created as anniversary pieces for Lenny himself written by contemporary artists. Bernstein’s son and middle child, Alexander Bernstein, shares stories from the stage as part of the performance.

Ancient Roman Mosaic Makes Final U.S. Stop at the Penn Museum

— by Pam Kosty

A large and exceptionally well-preserved ancient Roman floor mosaic, discovered in Lod, Israel, in 1996, and excavated in 2009, makes its final United States stop at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia before traveling to the Louvre in Paris and eventually, to a new museum being built just for it in Israel. Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel opens at the Penn Museum February 10, at 1:00 pm, for a run through May 19, 2013.

The exhibition opening begins at 1:00 pm Sunday with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Dr. C. Brian Rose, Mediterranean Section Curator-in-Charge and content expert for the exhibition, draws guests into the process of “Deciphering the Lod Mosaic” at a 2:00 pm talk. A Family Second Sunday Workshop, “Marvelous Mosaics,” invites guests of all ages to discover the many mosaics in the Penn Museum’s collection, and create an original mosaic in the walk-in workshop from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.

Details after the jump.
The mosaic floor is believed to come from the home of a wealthy Roman living in the Eastern Roman Empire about at 300 CE. Because the mosaic’s imagery has no overt religious content, it cannot be determined whether the owner was a pagan, a Jew, or a Christian.

The exhibition features the three most complete and impressive panels found in what was probably a large reception room. Within the central panel — which measures 13 feet square — is a series of smaller squares and triangles depicting various birds, fish, and animals that surround a larger octagonal scene with ferocious wild animals: a lion and lioness, an elephant, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, a tiger, and a bull. Such animals were well known to the Romans since they appeared at gladiatorial games, where they were pitted either against each other or against human adversaries. It is indeed possible that the owner of the house was involved in the capture and trade of exotic animals for the games, which was a very lucrative profession during the empire.

The mosaic may therefore represent the largesse that the owner had conferred by staging games with wild animal hunts. Flanking the central panel to the north and south are two smaller, rectangular end panels. The north panel explores the same theme as the main panel with various creatures; the south panel is devoted to a single marine scene, complete with two Roman merchant ships. None of the mosaics contain human figures.

The footprints of several workers involved in laying the floor about 1,700 years ago — some wearing sandals and others working barefoot — were also found, and preserved, to be shown in the exhibition.

More details about the mosaic, its discovery, history, conservation, and presentation, can be found here.

Are Shabbat and Kashrut Bad For Business?

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’.
[Read more…]

How the Nazis Co-Opted Science for Their Goals

By Hannah Lee

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.

More after the jump.
In the time since Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, others have sought to apply his breakthrough biological concepts to sociology and politics.  Arguing that modern medicine, charity, and welfare have obstructed the natural selection of by keeping “defectives” alive to reproduce, these Social Darwinists have lobbied for legislation against free and natural procreation.

International Hygiene Exhibition, 1911 promotional poster: The eugenics movement pre-dated Nazi Germany. A 1911 exhibition at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden included a display on human heredity and ideas to improve it. The exhibition poster features the Enlightenment’s all-seeing eye of God, adapted from the ancient Egyptian “Eye of Ra,” symbolizing fitness or health.

Credit: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

Dr. Otmar von Verschuer examines twins at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. As the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute’s Department for Human Heredity, Verschuer, a physician and geneticist, examined hundreds of pairs of twins to study whether criminality, feeble-mindedness, tuberculosis, and cancer were inheritable. In 1927, he recommended the forced sterilization of the “mentally and morally subnormal.” Verschuer typified those academics whose interest in Germany’s “national regeneration” provided motivation for their research.

Credit: Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin-Dahlem

Dr. Ernst Wentzler treats a child with rickets. Dr. Wentzler’s Berlin pediatric clinic served many wealthy families and high-ranking Nazi officials. Although Wentzler developed methods to treat premature infants or children with severe birth defects, he supported ending the lives of the “incurably ill” and served as a primary coordinator of the pediatric “euthanasia” program, evaluating patient forms and ordering the killing of several thousand children.

Credit: National Library of Medical Science, Bethesda, MD

“You Are Sharing the Load! A Hereditarily Ill Person Costs 50,000 Reichsmarks on Average up to the Age of Sixty,” reproduced in a high school biology textbook by Jakob Graf. The image illustrates Nazi propaganda on the need to prevent births of the “unfit.”

Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Germany was the leader in medicine and science in the early 20th century.  Dr. Alfred Ploetz, a physician and economist, published a major treatise on Rassenhygiene, the German term for eugenics.  He hoped that racial hygiene would help solve problems linked to the nation’s rapid industrialization and urbanization.

Dr. Eugene Fischer gained international renown for his 1913 study of “racial mixing” in the German colony in Southwest Africa.  He shared the “respectable” antisemitism common among Germany’s educated middle classes and academic elite during the 1920’s, though “expressed largely in private and in measured tones.”  Dr. Otmar von Verschuer studied twins for hereditary traits to criminality, feeblemindedness, tuberculosis, and cancer.  He typified academics whose interest in Germany’s “national regeneration” provided significant motivation for scientific research.

A 1920 treatise by Karl Binding, a jurist, and Alfred Hoche, a professor of psychiatry, lead to Berlin’s first eugenics bureau that certified fitness for marriage.  Although sterilization was illegal in Germany until 1933, some doctors were performing the procedure in secret.

In the United States, a 1924 law in Virginia prohibited intermarriage between whites and persons of “other blood.”  Carrie Buck was committed to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeblemindedness in Lynchburg after bearing a child out of wedlock. Her mother was already on state support, so she was sterilized.  By 1933, 26 states had laws permitting sterilization on eugenic grounds.  From 1909-1933, some 16,000 people were sterilized in the United States, half of them in the state of California.  Roman Catholics and supporters of individual rights opposed eugenics.

In the 1930’s, Norway, Sweden, and Finland along with parts of Switzerland and Canada had enacted sterilization laws.  In Great Britain, it was proposed but not enacted.  But, nowhere was there the scale of execution as in Germany which include persons living at home and in private clinics and hospitals.   Hearings were pro forma and lasted a few minutes.  These routine decisions to sterilize were seldom reversed on appeal.  For women, sterilization meant full anesthesia and two weeks in the hospital.  For men, it was on an outpatient basis.  In Germany, about 5,000 died as the result of surgery and over 90% were of women.  Feeblemindedness was a plastic label applied to poor, uneducated persons from large families dependent on state support.  There were over 400,000 people sterilized between 1934 to 1945.

Doctors joined the Nazi party earlier and in greater numbers than any other professional group.  German medicine was historically conservative and many, especially the younger physicians, hoped their careers would improve under a new regime as Jews were ousted from positions in overcrowded medical fields.  Many also supported the party’s support of eugenics and racial science.

From January 1940 to August 1941, over 70,000 institutionalized adults were killed in gas chambers in Germany and Austria.  The victims included people with schizophrenia, feeblemindedness, and epilepsy.  (Captured Soviet soldiers and Polish prisoners were used to test the operation of the gas chambers.)  Poisonous carbon monoxide gas was used, in a program code-named Operation T-4.  Dr. Friedrich Mennecke and his wife Eva expanded the inclusion criteria to include concentration camp residents too sick to work and later to the general Jewish prisoners.  By the spring of 1946, all Jewish psychiatric patients had been murdered.

Dr. Julius Hallervorden, a neuropathologist at the Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin received brains extracted from euthanasia, many from children killed at the nearby Brandenburg-Gordon clinic.  He ecstatically wrote about the specimens: “There was wonderful material among those brains, beautiful, mental defectiveness, malformations, and early infantile diseases.”  Dr. Ernst Wentzler ran a clinic that served wealthy families and he developed methods to treat premature infants and children with severe birth defects, including an incubator dubbed “the Wentzler warmer.”  He also supported ending the lives of the “incurably ill.”

The Nazi Party from 1939 to 1945 was the primary coordinator of the pediatric euthanasia (“mercy death”)  program.  It originally targeted children younger than 3 years, but it later expanded to include older children.  The methods used were: overdoses of the sedative Luminal (the brand name for phenobarbital); starvation; deadly injections of morphine; and asphyxiation by carbon monoxide.  A letter from the Reich Ministry of the Interior directed midwives and physicians to register all children born with severe birth defects.  These professionals were unaware that the information was fed to the euthanasia program.  The Final Solution of the Nazi party (the systematic genocide of European Jews), the first victims were infants and children with physical and mental disabilities.  Over 5,000 such children were killed.  Parents received letters falsifying the cause of death.

Using a chart of Mendel’s law of heredity, medical experts provided Hitler a purported claim for a law prohibiting Jews from marrying persons of “German blood.”  The Nüremburg Laws and the related Marital Health Law of October 1935 banned unions between hereditary “healthy” and “diseased” persons.  About 5,000 individuals of Jewish and Jewish hybrid unions were killed, many at the Brandenburg clinic.

In 1936, the Reich Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion stepped up efforts to prevent behavior seen as lowering the birth rate while new laws permitted abortions for Jewish and genetically “diseased” women.

Scientists considered racial types as “ideal constructs” never perfectly realized.  Politically, more important than physical appearance were lineage and deep Germanic roots.  Scientists regarded most Germans to be of “mixed” European lineage, corresponding to geographic origin: Nordic, Alpine, Mediterranean, and Balkan.  The psychologist Robert Ritter lent legitimacy, claiming data that showed that most Gypsies were offspring of “highly inferior habitual criminals.”  Dr. Eugene Fischer, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics taught courses for elite Nazi SS doctors and provided opinions on paternity and racial purity of individuals, including the hybrid offspring of Jewish and non-Jewish German couples.

In an insightful article in The New Republic from May 3, 1941, Michael Straight wrote about the protest by the Bishop of Münster, Clemens August von Galen, thus: “Persons were not killed for mercy.  They were killed because they could no longer manufacture guns in return for the food which they consumed; because the German hospitals were needed for wounded soldiers; because their death was the ultimate logic of the National Socialist doctrine of racial superiority and the survival of the physically fit.”  This article was used to drum up American support for entering the war.

After World War II, these immoral men and women of science met with mixed justice.  Dr. Paul Nitsche was executed in 1948 for his war crimes.  Dr. Carl Clauberg was sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes related to sterilization experiments, released early, and died in 1957. Dr. Josef Mengele, with doctorates in anthropology and genetic medicine, fled abroad and died in Brazil in 1979.

Others enjoyed post-war careers: Dr. Eugene Fischer became professor emeritus at the University of Freiburg and he died in 1967.  Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, a mentor of Mengele, established one of West Germany’s largest genetic research centers in Münster and he died in 1969.  Dr. Ernst Rüdin, who developed the Third Reich’s sterilization law, was classified as a nominal Nazi Party member and he died in 1952.

The fruits of the gruesome Nazi experiments remained active, such as Dr. Julius Hallervorden’s specimens from the euthanasia program which were used for study at the Brain Research Institute in Frankfurt until as recently as 1990.  He died in 1965.  Dr. Sophie Ehrhardt enjoyed a long academic career and her data on Gypsies from the Nazi years appeared in journals as late as 1974.  She died in 1990.  Dr. Ernst Wentzler set up pediatric practice in his hometown.  While he was questioned over his wartime activities, he was never prosecuted.  He died in 1973.

People may recoil by the mention of this exhibit, much less attend it.  But, if we as a society are to understand the developments of such gruesome manipulations of science and medicine, we must face the evidence.  “Never again” means understanding history and educating ourselves to prevent its repetition.

Deadly Medicine will be on display at the Parkway Central Library, located at 1901 Vine Street, until July 8th.  This exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will be located in the second floor gallery.  
 

Barrack Multimedia Museum of Czech Jewry opens Sunday, May 1


Opening in Partnership with Centropa coincides With Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 1.

— by Beverly Rosen

Highlights: Over 70 Six-foot Story Panels, Student Videos, and Guided Tours

All during the spring trimester, Barrack Hebrew Academy 9th graders researched Czech history; the richness of Jewish life in Czechoslovakia prior to the Holocaust, including vibrant music, theater, and art scenes, in addition to daily life; the horrors of the Shoah; and life after World War II. They turned their research and photos into larger than life story panels and videos based on key historical happenings, personal family histories, and interviews with Holocaust survivors and children of survivors to create the Barrack Museum of Czech Jewry.

Pictured (left to right) are 9th graders Jacob Reich, Sarah Wolfson and Avi Gordon.

More after the jump.

The student exhibit, that will be displayed throughout the school, will be complemented by six-foot story panels from Centropa, an organization based in Vienna, Austria dedicated to keeping the memory of Jewish life alive in Central and Eastern Europe. The multi-media exhibit debuts with a Community Opening Night reception, program and guided tours by student docents on Sunday evening, May 1, 7:30 pm at Barrack and coincides with nationwide Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies. The exhibit runs through Friday, May 6

The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Igor Laufer, a special friend and member of the Akiba-Barrack family and a Czech survivor. The Opening Night program includes a student tribute to Mr.Laufer; welcoming remarks by Dr. Steven M. Brown, Head of School; greetings from Peter A. Rafaeli, the Honorary Czech Consul of Philadelphia; a presentation by Hannah Lessing, General Secretary of the Austrian National Fund for Victims of National Socialism and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; and instrumental and vocal performances of Czech music by Barrack students.

Ninth grade docents will provide guided tours of the exhibit on May 1 and throughout the week. “Area schools and community groups will be invited to tour the exhibit,” share faculty advisers Ivy Kaplan and Lilach Taichman. “The community also is invited to Opening Night,” adds Sharon Levin, Humanities Department Chair. For details, contact [email protected]


Barrack Hebrew Academy provides a dynamic dual curriculum of college preparatory and Jewish studies to students from all Jewish backgrounds in grades 6-12.

Astronaut at National Museum of American Jewish History


After a journey that spanned millions of miles – from South Florida to the International Space Station and back – the original April 2006 proclamation that created Jewish American Heritage Month will be presented by Jewish NASA astronaut Dr. Garrett E. Reisman to the National Museum of American Jewish History.
In addition to speaking at the Museum, Dr. Reisman will present a video of his journey.

Dr. Reisman, who “carried” the proclamation on its space voyage, will return the document to its owner, the Jewish Museum of Florida, which will in turn present it to the National Museum of American Jewish History on behalf of JAHM. It will be displayed at the Museum, which opens November 14.

The proclamation traveled in mid-May with Dr. Reisman aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. “Dr. Reisman’s trip reminds us of the aspirations of millions of Jews who have made arduous journeys over countless miles for the promise of American freedom,” said Museum President and CEO Michael Rosenzweig.

“The shuttle flight is a compelling example of what Americans have been able to achieve, given the extraordinary freedoms provided by our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The promise of these freedoms has brought Jews and people from all backgrounds and religions to America,” he continued.

“On behalf of the National Museum of American Jewish History and in recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, we will proudly display the proclamation that Garrett Reisman carried into space.”

May was first proclaimed Jewish American Heritage Month by President George W. Bush on April 20, 2006. The announcement was the crowning achievement of an effort by the Jewish Museum of Florida and South Florida Jewish community leaders that resulted in resolutions introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) urging the president to proclaim a month that would recognize the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. The resolutions passed unanimously.

The JAHM Coalition was formed in March 2007 and convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and the Jewish Museum of Florida. The JAHM Coalition is composed of major national Jewish historical and cultural organizations including the National Museum of American Jewish History, AJA, AJHS, the Council of American Jewish Museums, the Jewish Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the Jewish Women’s Archive.

The National Museum of American Jewish History is the only major museum in the nation dedicated solely to telling the story of Jews in America.

A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Museum will move into a $150 million building located in the heart of historic Philadelphia, one-half block from the 15,000-square-foot location it has occupied since opening in 1976. It will stand directly across from the Liberty Bell, one block south of the National Constitution Center and one block north of Independence Hall. The new five-story, 100,000-square-foot building was designed by internationally renowned architect James Stewart Polshek, design counsel to Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership).

Encompassing 25,000 square feet of gallery space on three-and-a-half floors, the core exhibition will explore the challenges faced by Jews since their arrival on this continent in 1654, celebrating their experiences in every facet of American life and throughout every phase of the country’s history. Featuring more than 1,000 artifacts, as well as films and state-of-the-art technology, the exhibition will showcase how an immigrant population flourished under freedom and will highlight the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Jews over a period of more than