“Being Jewish at Christmas” Family Fun at Museum of Jewish History

PHILADELPHIA – “Being Jewish at Christmas,” the National Museum of American Jewish History‘s annual day of family fun, will be bigger and better than ever this year as the popular program is hosted for the first time in the new Museum building, which opened in November.

“Being Jewish at Christmas” will include the music of Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review, returning this year to rock the house in the 200-seat Dell Theater.

“Being Jewish at Christmas,” featuring music, comedy and more, is being held this year on Friday, December 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in order not to conflict with the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, Dec. 25. Performances begin at 11 a.m. and will repeat at noon and 1 p.m.

More after the jump.
Joining Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review in returning to “Being Jewish at Christmas” is entertainer Michael Rosman, whose amazing comedy feats, perfect for all ages, have been seen on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and who has performed numerous times in Atlantic City. Also returning is Wondergy, the “Best of Philly” party entertainers who fuel curiosity by making science fun and exciting.

Jon Nelson is a mainstay on the national children’s music scene, as a solo artist and with his Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review. His unique performances for children and their families are rooted in his love of rock and roll and his desire to teach children through fun and interactive music. Jon Nelson’s Rockin’ Kids Review treats audiences to a rip-roaring, hand-clapping, foot-stomping educational and interactive concert that every child, parent and grandparent will love.

The Museum, and its exhibition, café and store, will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24. There is a 20 percent discount in the Museum store on NMAJH logo merchandise on Dec. 24.

“Being Jewish at Christmas” will be held at the National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East (at the corner of 5th and Market streets), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program is free with the cost of Museum admission. Children 12 and under are free. BJAC is free to Museum members.  Visit the NMAJH website for prices and details and to purchase advance tickets.  

In addition, the Museum will be holding a kosher food drive during the program for the Mitzvah Food Pantry, which provides ongoing food relief to vulnerable households. Visitors are encouraged to bring kosher, non-perishable, packaged food.
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The Museum will also be open Saturday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets can only be purchased in advance on the Museum’s website. “Being Jewish at Christmas” is sponsored by the Robert Saligman Jewish Heritage Fund.

The Shabbat Compromise

Museum Overview – Where Stories Take Hold from NMAJH on Vimeo.

National Museum of American Jewish History Announces Saturday Ticketing Policy

— Jay Nachman and Ilana Blumenthal

Visitors who wish to see and explore the National Museum of American Jewish History on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath) may obtain tickets in advance on the Museum’s website, or throughout the week at the Museum during regular hours of operation.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for Youths (13-21), Seniors (65+) and Active Military. Children (12 and under) are free. Membership (including free admission for one year) is $54 for an individual, $72 for a couple and $90 for a household.

Tickets are also available for purchase on the specific Saturday of a visit at the Independence Visitor Center (IVC), located at Market and 6th streets, a block away from the Museum. Tickets will not be sold at the Museum on Saturdays. The Saturday ticketing policy was instituted by the Museum in recognition of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath).

The Museum opens to the public on Friday, Nov. 26. Visiting hours at the Museum are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On all days, ticket sales and admittance to the Museum cease half an hour before closing time.

More after the jump.

Building a Celebration from NMAJH on Vimeo.

Tickets for a Saturday visit can be purchased from the IVC only on Saturdays.

The $150-million, 100,000-square-foot Museum, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, is the only museum in the nation dedicated solely to telling the story of Jews in America.

Encompassing 25,000 square feet of gallery space on three-and-a-half floors, the core exhibition explores 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 showcases how an immigrant population flourished under freedom and highlights the diverse backgrounds and experiences of Jews over a period of more than 350 years. An additional 5,000 square feet will be used for changing exhibitions.

Biden Quotes Rebbe at National Museum of American Jewish History

After his remarks at festivities celebrating the grand opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia’s Old City, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden invited Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, director of the city’s Lubavitcher Center and chairman of the umbrella organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad, to join him at the stage.
According to Shemtov, who also serves as chairman of the umbrella organization of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the vice president’s remarks were poignant. They encapsulated the Rebbe’s insistence that not only Jews living in America, but all Americans, remain steadfast in – as the words in the Declaration of Independence state – their “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

— Joshua Runyan

Drawn by the chance to celebrate 350 years of American Jewish history at the newest addition to the most historic square mile in the nation’s first capital, hundreds of people from across the country descended on Philadelphia to hear Vice President Joseph Biden announce that a new museum’s Jewish stories were, in fact, manifestations of distinctly American ideals.

“In telling the story of the American Jewish experience, this museum in my view, tells the story of America’s identity,” Biden said Sunday at festivities in front of the new $150 million home of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

In hailing the contributions of a host of American Jews, Biden – a Scranton, Pa., native who represented neighboring Delaware in the U.S. Senate before ascending to the White House – quoted from a diary entry written by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, upon his 1940 departure from Lisbon, Portugal, and much-awaited arrival in the United States. The diary page is on permanent display in the museum’s “Only in America” exhibit, along with two other items connected to the Chabad-Lubavitch leader. (The museum also highlights the contributions of 17 other Jewish figures, including Dr. Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein.)

“We have to heed the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,” stated Biden. “We should not satisfy ourselves with what we have accomplished and we should always strive to realize the potentials and abilities that G-d has given us to perfect the world.

“This is the message that the museum will spread to the whole world.”

After his remarks, the vice president instructed his Secret Service agents to invite Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the director of the Lubavitcher Center in Philadelphia, to make his way from the audience and join him at the stage. The two embraced for several minutes.

Along with the diary entry, the museum’s display includes a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded in 1995 on occasion of the Rebbe’s birthday and corresponding National Education Day, and a dollar that the Rebbe gave businessman Ronald Perelman to signify his participation in the philanthropist’s charitable distributions. On that bill, the Rebbe circled the words “In G-d We Trust,” and in an attached letter, empowered Perelman to be an emissary to “spread the proclamation on the bill.”

The Rebbe’s guidance, noted Shemtov, strengthened a modern spiritual awakening on these shores and inspired generations of Jewish activists and leaders.

More after the jump.
“The Rebbe restored confidence and faith and hope to the physically destitute who had given up, and the spiritually destitute, who had been given up on,” explained the rabbi. “He taught that a person must always do more to reach his potential.”

Other speakers on Sunday, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, pointed to the museum’s location – caddy corner to Independence Hall – as significant.

“Nowhere else but in Philadelphia,” said the mayor, “the cradle of American liberty, can this story be told so well or so honestly.”

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, is one of 18 individuals to be included in a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which officially opens this month in Philadelphia.

National Museum of American Jewish History Opening

Long-time board members and supporters of NMAJH, Lyn and George Ross, have their names emblazoned on the new museum.

Bonnie Squires

One of the great mysteries surrounding the evolution of the new National Museum of American Jewish History site was solved at a press preview right before the official opening and dedication of NMAJH.  For months I had been wondering – how could Patrick Gallagher, the “interpretive designer” who worked so closely with Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita, the board of trustees, and the new CEO Michael Rosenzweig, have translated the vision of Goodman and her board into the amazing new building on Inde
pendence Mall?

I mean – you don’t have to be Jewish to love bagels and lox.  But do you have to be Jewish to interpret the history of Jews in America into a museum which will speak to all ages, all ethnic groups, all different expressions of Judaism, all the immigrant groups in American society?

Some of the older artifacts in the new museum, like this pile of immigrant suitcases, look outstanding in their new home.

So I asked Gallagher, as he stood next to Goodman, after the press conference.  And he answered, “I’m Jewish!”  Now at first I thought he was joking – until Goodman confirmed that yes, indeed, Patrick was Jewish.    Gallagher had converted to Judaism in his twenties when he was getting married.

And like other people who have studied their way into Judaism, instead of simply having been born into the religion, Gallagher probably knows a lot more about Jewish history, traditions, customs and practices than many of those born Jewish.

Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Patrick Gallagher, the interpretive designer of the new museum.

For ten years, Goodman and her board worked with Gallagher & Associates, in creating the core exhibition. The new museum has been designed by the internationally acclaimed architectural firm Polshek Partnership Architects.

The grand opening gala will feature performances by Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld, along with seminars by academics and a ribbon-cutting featuring Vice President Joe Biden.  Nearly one thousand patrons and sponsors will attend the gala concert and dinner, with national figures flying in from around the country.

And as Polshek explained, the beacon atop the glass and terra cotta structure will act as a reflection of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, a call to freedom; a reminder of the Eternal LIght which shines in every synagogue around the world; as well as a reflection of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, American icons of freedom, just across the street from the new National Museum of American Jewish History.

The move to Independence Mall included the 19th century statue, now situated on the Caroline and Sidney Kimmel Plaza, which was a gift from the Jewish community of Philadelphia.

Photo credits: Bonnie Squires

Explaining the mission of the NMAJH are (left to right) architect James Polshek and NMAJH CEO Michael Rosenzweig.

A Sneak Peek: The National Museum of American Jewish History

— Charlotte Glass Loeb

A glittering jewel has been added to the crown of Philadelphia’ s national historic treasures. The National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and preserving the American Jewish experience. If location is everything, this one has it all. Placed right next to the sites where our very freedoms were conceived, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center, it tells a story uniquely American and distinctly Jewish, but one that will resonate with other immigrant ethnic groups who also flourished within the context of liberty and freedom. The 100,000 square foot building itself, a façade of five gleaming glass stories, sends a vibrant message: Jews in America need not hide behind high walls; Jews have been woven into American society. Jews are free to practice Judaism in a multitude of manners, out in the open. The glass exterior and the windows that look out on Independence Mall symbolize transparency as well as the fragility of democracy; Americans must steadfastly protect these values for everyone.

More after the jump.

The entry to the building, just steps away from our founding institutions, welcomes the visitor to a light, bright spacious atrium, punctuated by two dramatic, open staircases climbing higher and higher to the every top of the structure. Here is where the visitor is oriented, can enjoy a kosher snack or lunch in the café run by Betty the Caterer, or shop for interesting books and gifts in the museum store. The Museum is committed to keeping its message alive through interactive and
personal involvement. They are training 50 docents to help guide visitors through the exhibits.

Only in America

The unique “Only in America” Gallery Hall of Fame dominates the center of the first floor. Here is an innovative combination of multimedia, original artifacts and interactive experiences that illustrate the choices, challenges and opportunities a select few individuals encountered on their pathways to remarkable achievement. The lives of eighteen distinguished Jewish Americans were selected to represent Jews’ 350 years of history in the United States, their important achievements and the diverse fields in which Jews have been involved.

How does one select eighteen people from the hundreds of American Jews who left an indelible mark on humanity?

A public vote from a list of 218 possible candidates was offered through an interactive
database available on the Museum’ s Only in America website. More than 209,000 votes were cast from 56 countries. The final selections were the persons who received the most votes in a category, further refined by the historians and curators to ensure that the exhibit was well balanced.

The finalists are:

  • Irving Berlin, composer and lyricist
  • Leonard Bernstein, conductor, composer and pianist
  • Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice
  • Albert Einstein, Nobel laureate physicist
  • Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism
  • Sandy Koufax, Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher
  •  Estée Lauder, cosmetic company founder
  • Emma Lazarus, poet, author of “The New Colossus
  • Issac Leeser, publisher, editor, translator
  • Golda Meir, 4th Prime Minister of the State of Israel
  • Jonas Salk, virologist, developed polio vaccine
  •  Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of Lubavitcher movement

  • Rose Schneiderman, labor union leader and socialist
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, author
  • Steven Spielberg, film director, producer and screenwriter
  • Barbra Streisand, singer, actress, director, songwriter
  • Henrietta Szold, Zionist leader and founder of Hadassah and
  • Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, leader of Reform Judaism.

The best way to tour the Museum is to ride up to the fifth floor which is dominated by a large, bright event space designed to hold private parties, meetings and conferences. Temporary exhibits will share this space from time to time.

The fourth, third and second floors hold the main exhibits that are arranged in chronological order according to three themes:

  • Foundations of Freedom,
  • Dreams of Freedom, and
  • Choices and Challenges of Freedom.

Each of these exhibits is filled with artifacts, primary documents, films, and state of the art technology bringing this history to life, while taking note of the constant adaptations required as the world changed from decade to decade.

Foundations of Freedom (1654-1880)

“Foundations of Freedom” explores the founding of a new community in a new nation, from the earliest Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam in 1654, through the Revolutionary War era, to the Westward Expansion and the Civil War, as the groundwork of a vibrant future is laid. In the center of the gallery, a sweeping interactive map of the United States provides a hands-on illustration of how Jewish movement throughout the country fits into the broader story of American expansion. Media installations such as this introduce and make understandable how large historical forces like immigration, transportation, and population growth relate to the American Jewish experience. Among the many artifacts on display is a record of the first Jews in New Amsterdam in 1654 and their ambivalent welcome by Peter Stuyvestant, a document signed by Haym Solomon and James Madison during the Revolutionary War Period and a menu showing the availability of kosher meals at a Constitution planning meeting in 1788. As the nation moved westward, so did the Jews. A large covered wagon is on interactive display reminding visitors that settling the west caused severe hardships on all Americans, including those Jews who struggled to maintain their Jewishness on the prairie or in small towns. The Civil War brought Jews to both sides of the conflict and Jewish soldiers wore uniforms of both blue and gray. General Grant expelled Jews out of the Tennessee Territory and it was up to President Lincoln to overrule him. Not until 1877 were Jews accorded freedom in every state.

Dreams of Freedom (1880-1940)

“Dreams of Freedom” displays numerous artifacts relating to these transformative years of mass migration when millions of immigrants arrived in America, among them two and a half million Jews, and fundamentally changed American society. This exhibit explores how European Jews embarked on a journey to America and documents the choices and challenges they faced upon settling in their new homeland. This is the period in which Jews created a constellation of philanthropic institutions that assisted immigrants, cared for the poor and the elderly, provided education and supported their efforts to become Americans. Jewish culture thrived with actors, comedians, songwriters, and playwrights. The Yiddish press and Yiddish theater blossomed. By the 20th Century Jews were taking leading positions in American
business and politics. They emerged as leaders in the labor movement, the garment industry, sports and movies. Many Jews served heroically in World War I. Incidents of anti-Semitism increased led by influential people such as Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin. Adolph Hitler’ s rise to power spurred desperate attempts to flee
Germany and the lands it conquered; the United States eventually accepted only 200,000 refugees. More than half a million Jews joined to defeat the Nazis by serving in the United States’ armed forces during World War II. Exhibits relating to the Holocaust tell the story from the American Jewish point of view, differing from the perspective of Holocaust museums.

Choices and Challenges of Freedom (1940-today)

From the Cold War to suburbanization to the birth of the counter-culture movement, this area examines how the post-war Jewish community reinvented itself to confront the challenges of a new era. The development of suburbia changed the very nature of the Jewish experience with new communities and new synagogues. The three major
strands of Judaism – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox – wrestle with the challenges posed by contemporary Jewish life. One exhibit features films of 13 synagogues offering virtual tours of synagogues built after World War II. Religious expressions continue to change with the development of smaller prayer groups such as havurot and minyanim.

Jewish education branched out to include day schools and Jewish camps became the normative way for Jewish adolescents to strengthen their Jewish identity. Most Jewish Americans rallied to support the establishment of the State of Israel, and its founding inaugurated a complex and ongoing relationship between the two countries and their Jewish communities. Jews have been a part of every contemporary issue and were in the forefront of the civil rights movement, the fight for equal rights for women, the concerted effort to free Soviet Jewry, and creating a green America. Jewish Americans rose to hold key positions in government, business, science, the arts and technology. An American Jew ran as a candidate for Vice-President of the United States. The American Jewish community continues to reinvent itself to confront the challenges of the 21st Century.

Education Center

The concourse features classrooms and a 200-seat Dell Theater which will offer a full slate of programming including lectures, films, plays and music. Exploring the American Jewish experience is not a passive process. It will be supported and invigorated at the Museum by active and extensive educational programming. The Museum will use the
latest in communications and digital technology to provide resources, activities and support to educators, students and families across the country and around the world. It is anticipated that 50,000 school-age children from public, parochial and charter schools across the country will visit the Museum annually. Serving visitors of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, the Museum’ s depiction of one ethnic group’ s experience of freedom will provide important lessons about the civic, religious and ethnic history of the United States as a whole.

The National Jewish History Museum is truly a treasure and should make all Philadelphians proud to have this institution in this community. It is an exciting presentation of the 500-year-long story of the Jews of America. Granted freedoms here that had been denied them for centuries, they immersed themselves in the American experiment and demonstrated how a people with its own unique culture could participate in the building of a free society. It is a story worth telling – at the new National Museum of American Jewish History.

Visitors can further enrich this narrative at the “It’s Your Own Story” booth. a video recording booth that invites visitors to tell their own stories, share family histories, and react to some of the new Museum’s central themes.

After visitors record their stories, they will be emailed a web link that they can share with their friends and family or embed on a Facebook or YouTube page. In addition, every video will be preserved by the Museum and a selection will be accessible to anyone visiting the Museum.

In addition, there is a “Contemporary Issues Forum,” where visitors will be asked to respond to such provocative questions such as “Is intermarriage a threat to the American Jewish community?” “Does anti-Semitism exist in the United States?” and “Should religion play a role in American politics?”

In addition, people’s opinions, their handwriting, and their physical image, will be projected into the space.

Grand Opening

The National Museum of American Jewish History will celebrate the opening of its new national destination museum on Independence Mall with a Grand Opening Weekend, Nov. 12-14, headlined by entertainers Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld at a Saturday night Gala on Nov. 13.

In addition to the Gala, the three-day celebration will include a symposium on Friday and a Grand Opening Dedication Ceremony on Sunday with participation by prominent elected officials, national communal leaders and distinguished dignitaries.

The Museum’s Grand Opening Weekend begins Friday, Nov. 12 with a symposium featuring two panel discussions. The first, from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., titled “Jewish Encounters with Freedom: Snapshots from the American Past and Present,” is co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program of the University of Pennsylvania and the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University. The second panel, “Crafting American Public Space,” from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., is the Murray Friedman Memorial Roundtable, co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

Festivities continue with a Grand Opening Gala starting Saturday at 6 p.m. with a reception in the Museum followed by a dinner and special performances by Midler and Seinfeld under the stars in a clear-top tent on Independence Mall.

Saturday evening will also include a Young Friends Gala that will feature cocktails, desserts and dancing for Museum supporters between 21 and 40 years of age inside the Museum.

The Museum’s Grand Opening Weekend will culminate Sunday at noon with an opening dedication ceremony that will include prominent elected officials, national communal leaders and dignitaries from across the country. The program will also include the affixing of a mezuzah on the new Museum and an Open House. Timed tickets, subject to building capacity, will be distributed to registrants in advance for the Open House.

After the Grand Opening Weekend, the Museum will open to the public on Friday, Nov. 26, following a series of exclusive previews for Founding Members on Sunday Nov. 21 and Monday Nov. 22. Founding members by $54 and can not only participate in these opening celebrations, but can continue to visit the museum for free throughout the year. Founding members will be listed in the Museum with other Jewish Americans who have played important roles in shaping the history of this country.

The museum will be closed on all Mondays, the Jewish and Secular New Years, Yom Kippor, Thanksgiving, and the first two days of Passover. During Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, tickets can not be purchased on site and the café and store will be closed, so you will have to purchase your tickets in advance if you want to spend an enriching Shabbat afternoon in the Museum, and you are not already a member.

Updated information about the Grand Opening Weekend, including how to purchase tickets and attend events, will be posted on the Museum’s website.

Astronaut at National Museum of American Jewish History

The first event held at Philadelphia’s New National Museum of American Jewish History is literally out of this world.

Bonnie Squires

Garrett Reisman, with his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, who was the first Jewish member of the space station crew, went up the first time in 2008 where he was able to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary. Israeli President Shimon Peres gave him the symbol of State of Israel to take with him for the occasion. His second trip was just in May of this year, where he and a fellow astronaut had to do a space walk in order to install an additional module to the space station.  
   The National Museum of American Jewish History hosted Reisman in a special event which was the first to be convened in the not-yet-completed new site of NMAJH.  Reisman, dressed in a flight suit, entranced the crowd of founding members of the museum with his stories of his space flight and one very interesting challenge he encountered in trying to install the new module on the space station.

More after the jump.

Bonnie Squires talks with Dr. Garrett Reisman.

   It seems the plug and socket would not fit which would have activated the electrical system.  Nos here was Reisman and his colleague, out in space, trying to comlete a task they had trained for during an entire year.  And it wasn’t working.
   Then Reisman had an aha! moment.  Calling into the space ship, he asked when they would be traveling directly into the rays of the sun.  Then he covered the plug end of the module to shield it from the heat, allowing the socket to expand from the incredible heat from the sun.  And voila!  He was able to push the plug into the socket.
   Of course, Reisman may have more scientific jargon for the plug, but I used the language most of us can understand.
   Reisman used a Star Wars / SAT analogy in order to relate how incredibly large the International Space Station is: “The Space Shuttle is to International Space Station, as the Millenium Falcon is to the Death Star.”
   A highlight of the evening, in addition to getting to ask questions of a Jewish astronaut, was the NASA film of his voyage, including some lighter moments of “flying” inside the spaceship and bobbing for M&Ms.
   But when I asked him how many hours a day he and his six colleagues had to work, not play, he answered matter-of-factly that in the entire twelve-day voyage, they only had four hours off.  And that was why, in the playful scenes in the film, all the astronauts were wearing the same shirts.  It all took place in one four-hour down-time segment.

   Impressive was Reisman’s commitment to the late astronaut from Israel, Ilan Ramon, who was lost in the Columbia shuttle disaster.  Reisman and Ramon had been in the same training unit, even sharing a Passover Seder together. Naturally, Reisman took up the flag for both American Jewry and Israel when Ramon was lost.
   Reisman had carried into space with him the original April 2006 proclamation that had created Jewish American Heritage Month.  
   Michael Rosenzweig, President and CEO of NMAJH, and Gwen Goodman, executive director emerita, praised Philadelphia Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and U.S. Senator Arlen Specter for their work in passing Jewish American Heritage Month and for having NMAJH designated as the museum of American Jewish history in America.

NMAJH board member Joe Zuritsky and his wife Renee; Executive Director Emerita Gwen Goodman; and CEO Michael Rosenzweig.

   Marcia Jo Zerivitz initiated the legislation for a Florida Jewish History Month, which was became the nation’s first such commemoration each January when it was signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) in 2003 saying “Everyone else has a month. We need a month too. We have so many stereotypes to debunk.”
   Zerivitz then set out to establish a National Jewish History Month despite a decision by the Bush administration to create “no more new months”. Debbie Wasserman Schultz took it on as a personal project to overcome the moratorium and succeeded in finding 250 co-sponsors to the legislation which gave it the critical momentum to come to the floor of the House of Representatives on December 14, 2005 where it passed unanimously 423-0. Senator Arlen Spector championed a similar measure in the Senate on February 14, 2006 and the bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in April 2006. Since National Jewish History Month has been observed each May.  
   The officials from the Jewish Museum of Florida and the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition turned over the 2006 proclamation to the NMAJH, posing with the astronaut. The proclamation was launched May 14, 2010 on the Space Shuttle Atlantis travelling 4,900,000 miles on its 186 orbits before returning to Earth on May 25, 2010.
   After the flight, Reisman returned home on May 27 to find an invitation from President Obama in his mail inviting him to the first annual Jewish Heritage Reception at the White House on that same day. Reisman called the White House to say he would not be able to make it, but at least he had a good excuse for RSVPing so late: He was in outer space at the time.
   The fabulous new site of NMAJH will open to the public the weekend of November 12, 2010. The museum will feature the Mezuzah which Reisman installed on the Space Shuttle Atlantis next to his sleep station.
  Congreswomen Allyson Schwartz was instrumental not only in passing National Jewish History Month but also in a joint resolution recognizing the museum as the official National Museum of American  Jewish histroy.
   At the reception after the event, Betty the Caterer feted everyone with space themed fare including Dipping Dots, Tang, Star Fruit and Cosmic Cocoa. Afterwards, Reisman returned to his alma mater the University of Pennsylvania to catch up with some of his old friends.

Two Torahs: Columbia Torah (left) and Atlantis Torah (right).

  He then continued to California, where he participated in premiere of the film An Article of Hope at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival. The film is a documentary about the little Torah which Ilan Ramon took with him on the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia. Ramon received this Torah scroll from his Physics professor Joachim Joseph who received it when he had a secret Bar Mitzvah as a boy in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen Belsen.
  Everyone clearly agreed with National Jewish History Month coordinator Abby Schwartz that “it gives us such nachos to see a nice young Jewish boy honoring his people from outer space.”