A Midsummer’s Eve: Celebrating Life, Love, and Tu B’Av

Join the Young Friends of the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) for our annual summer event celebrating the joyous holiday of Tu B’av. Historically, Tu B’av marked the beginning of the grape harvest, the day that people dressed in all white garments and went out to dance in the vineyards. Today, it is a celebration of love.

At the NMAJH celebration, enjoy yourself with beer, wine, a specialty cocktail and a dessert bar, as well as an amazing view of Independence Mall from our terrace.

Guests are encouraged to wear white.

Ticket prices vary. The VIP ticket includes a love-themed tour starting at 7 pm, a private bar and a unique Museum takeaway.

Grahame Lesh: Growing Up Grateful Dead

Join Grahame Lesh, son of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, for an acoustic performance filled with stories of growing up around the Grateful Dead and about how music promoter Bill Graham impacted his life.

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) is co-hosting this event with the Ardmore Music Hall, where Grahame Lesh will perform in the evening. The purpose of this event is to highlight NMAJH’s current exhibition, “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution.” After escaping Nazi Germany as a child, Graham immigrated to the United States and grew up to become one of the most influential concert promoters in history, playing a pivotal role in the careers of iconic artists, including the Grateful Dead.

Tickets are $10 each, but are free for NMAJH and Ardmore Music Hall members. Tickets also include access to the “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” exhibition.

Grahame Lesh’s appearance at the museum is a sneak preview; he will be performing again at 8 p.m. that evening at the Ardmore Music Hall with the John Kadlecik Band and Midnight North. Click here for information and concert tickets.

Meet the Most Senior PA Delegate: Benjamin Franklin

Ralph Archbold as Benjamin Franklin at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Ralph Archbold as Benjamin Franklin at the National Museum of American Jewish History

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice bumped into Pennsylvania’s most senior delegate at the National Museum of American Jewish History, before the Bend the Arc reception during the Democratic National Convention. To our delight, Benjamin Franklin took the opportunity to chat with us about the convention and his relationship with the Jewish community. [Read more…]

DNC Celebrates Jewish American Heritage Month at NMAJH

Marcel Groen, Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., and Democratic State Committee member Ellen Brookstein

Marcel Groen, Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., and Democratic State Committee member Ellen Brookstein

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) chose Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) as the site of its observance of Jewish American Heritage Month. This observance was a multi-faith event that took place on Yom HaShoah and brought together movers and shakers from the Democratic Party. [Read more…]

NMAJH Celebrates 5 Years on Independence Mall

The National Museum of American Jewish History marks the fifth anniversary of its iconic building on Independence Mall by taking a fresh look at its core exhibition, which tells the story of more than 360 years of Jewish life. This includes new objects, as well as new insights into existing displays: [Read more…]

May: Celebrating our Jewish American Heritage

Proclamation on Jewish American Heritage Month 2014
— President of the United States of America Barack Obama

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, persevering in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought multitudes to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish Americans. This month, let us honor their tremendous contributions-as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. And let all of us find inspiration in a story that speaks to the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and all of its salvation.

Proclamation continues after the jump.
This history led many Jewish Americans to find common cause with the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and Jewish Americans marched side-by-side in Selma and Montgomery. They boarded buses for Freedom Rides together, united in their support of liberty and human dignity. These causes remain just as urgent today. Jewish communities continue to confront Antisemitism — both around the world and, as tragic events mere weeks ago in Kansas reminded us, here in the United States. Following in the footsteps of Jewish civil rights leaders, we must come together across all faiths, reject ignorance and intolerance, and root out hatred wherever it exists.

In celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, we also renew our unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel. It is a bond that transcends politics, a partnership built on mutual interests and shared ideals. Our two countries are enriched by diversity and faith, fueled by innovation, and ruled not only by men and women, but also by laws. As we continue working in concert to build a safer, more prosperous, more tolerant world, may our friendship only deepen in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2014 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month, the theme of which is healing the world, with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

NMAJH Extends “Pay What You Wish” Admission Policy Until Oct. 31

— by Yael Eytan

The National Museum of American Jewish History has decided to extend its pay what you wish admission policy, implemented during the government shutdown, until the end of October.

The policy will also be applied for the Museum’s current special exhibition, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, which closes on Sunday, October 20.

General admission is normally $12 for adults (22-64). Seniors and youth (13-21) normally pay $11. As always, children under 13 are free.

“Pay-What-You-Wish” at NMAJH During Government Shutdown


National Museum of American Jewish History. Photo: Jeff Goldberg.

— by Ilana Blumenthal

As a private, non-profit institution located on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History will remain open during the federal government shutdown.

The museum will offer “pay-what-you-wish” admission during the duration of the shutdown. The museum will operate under its regularly-scheduled hours; all events taking place at the museum will continue as scheduled.    

Race and Children’s Literature

— by Hannah Lee

Do you remember the joy of finding a book that reflected your life, your family? As an immigrant living on the Lower East Side, I learned about American ways through the Girl Scout manual, and was puzzled by the young adult stories of Beverly Cleary, who wrote about teenage boys who played football, and girls who rallied them with cheers in formation. By the time I became a mother, books about Asian-American families had become available, and I still happily collect them.

Back in the mid-20th century, book publishers were not interested in reaching a wider audience beyond the mainstream culture. Ezra Jack Keats was a pioneer, who convinced Viking Press to allow depiction of a black boy, Peter, in his 1962 book, The Snowy Day. He also broke new literary ground in portraying an urban setting and using collage to illustrate his text. The book won the 1963 Caldecott Award for “most distinguished American picture book for children.”

More after the jump.
Born in 1916 to Polish Jewish immigrants, Keats grew up poor in East New York, Brooklyn. His father discouraged his interest in writing, while simultaneously supporting his talent with tubes of paint. Keats changed his name from Jack Ezra Katz in 1947 in reaction to the Antisemitism in the country.

The reaction to The Snowy Day ranged from outrage for that Keats was not himself black to gratitude for expanding the racial profile of the book world. The poet and leader of the “Harlem Renaissance,” Langston Hughes, praised it as “a perfectly charming little book.” The writer Sherman Alexie read it as a child on an Indian reservation in the 1970s and reminisced:

It was the first time I looked at a book and saw a brown, black, beige character — a character who resembled me physically and spiritually in all his gorgeous loneliness and splendid isolation.

This summer we are treated with overlapping exhibits in our city’s institutions, with The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats at the National Museum of American Jewish History, a retrospective collection of the work of Jerry Pinkney at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a companion exhibit on Pinkney’s body of work at the Free Library on Vine Street.

A native son of Germantown born in 1939, Pinkney struggled with dyslexia, but he soared through his talent in drawing. Whereas Keats’ black characters could have been anybody, Pinkey’s artwork explicitly incorporates African-American motifs. He won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for his illustration of The Lion & the Mouse, a version of Aesop’s fable that he also wrote. He also has five Caldecott Honors, among other awards. One of my favorite of his works is of Goin’ Someplace Special, written by Patricia McKissack. Set in the late 1950s in Nashville, it is about a time and place where the library was one of the few places that disregarded the segregationist Jim Crow laws and treated blacks with respect.

Books may not lead social movements, but they have lasting impacts in supporting individuals who live outside the mainstream. You are no longer fringe when there are books that reflect your life.

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…]