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Exhibitions and Collections

Past Exhibitions

Lyle Lyle, Crocodile and Friends:
The Art of Bernard Waber
August 27 - November 1

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber is the first major exhibition to explore the life and career of children’s book writer and illustrator, Bernard Waber (1921-2013). Through over 90 original illustrations and other artifacts, including newly discovered sketches and manuscripts, the exhibit explores the whimsical and emotionally resonant world Waber created in a long career that spanned more than 30 picture books, including the much loved Lyle, Lyle Crocodile stories. Curated by children's book historian Leonard S. Marcus, this celebration of Waber's work and spirit in his hometown of Philadelphia is a fitting tribute.

This exhibition was organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts. Support for the organization of this exhibition has been generously provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Major support for this exhibition at NMAJH has been provided by Hallee and David Adelman, Jen Mendel and Fred Fox, the Louis and Bessie Stein Foundation Fund #2 Audrey Merves, Trustee, and the Solomon and Sylvia Bronstein Foundation. Additional support by Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, Elaine L. Lindy, and The Rittenhouse Foundation. List in Formation.

Illustration © 1987 by Bernard Waber

The Pursuit of Happiness: Jewish Voices for LGBT Rights
June, 23 2015 through October 11, 2015

The Museum is joining institutions across the Philadelphia region to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder demonstration on July 4, 1965 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The Pursuit of Happiness celebrates and explores broader stories of activism of Jewish marchers who participated in the Annual Reminders from 1965-1969. During that time gay activists and allies participated in Annual Reminder demonstrations each July 4th, “reminding” their fellow citizens that gay and lesbian Americans did not enjoy all of the rights enshrined in the nation’s founding documents. Few could have known then that their appeal for basic personal freedoms would pave the way for advances in marriage equality and a more egalitarian future.

Installation highlights include a campaign poster for Frank Kameny, who organized Philadelphia’s Annual Reminder demonstrations and became the first openly gay candidate for Congress when he ran in 1971. An astronomer and WWII veteran, Kameny lost his civil service job in 1957 because of his sexual orientation, and appealed his firing to the Supreme Court in the first case ever to argue for sexual orientation as a civil rights issue. The poster is on loan to the Museum from veteran gay rights activist Kay Lahusen. Also on display, courtesy of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, is a “Lavender Menace” t-shirt worn by Martha Shelley to protest the National Organization for Women’s exclusion of lesbian voices and call attention to the need to include diverse voices within the women’s movement.

Project Partners NMAJH’s Annual Reminder project has been generously supported by the Allen A. Stein Family Foundation, Inc. Public programs presented in conjunction with the installation were generously supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.The Museum is grateful for the creativity and enthusiasm of many community partners, led by the 50th Anniversary Planning Committee under the leadership of Equality Forum and the William Way LGBT Community Center and its John J. Wilcox Archives and Library, as well as our planning committee chaired by Tom Wilson Weinbergand including Bob Skiba, Jocelyn Block, John Cunningham, JerrySilverman, Judith Tannenbaum, and Rich Wilson.

Richard Avedon: Family Affairs
March 2015 - August 2015

Avedon’s striking fashion photography and minimalist, emotion-filled portraiture broke boundaries and, for nearly a half century, helped define Americans’ perceptions of beauty, politics, and power. This exhibition, for which NMAJH will be the only U.S. venue, unites two seminal bodies of work by the influential American Jewish photographer: a series of four portrait murals inspired by the revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960s and early 1970s, and a series of 69 portraits entitled The Family, originally published in Rolling Stone magazine on the eve of the 1976 election.

Major Support for this exhibition has been provided by:
The David Berg Foundation
The Director's Fund
Lynne and Harold Honickman

Additional Support:
The Abstraction Fund
Gagosian Gallery
150 px macys
The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Annette Y. and Jack M. Friedland
Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region
Gwen and Alan Goodman
Marsha and Stephen Silberstein

Exhibition organized by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Pictured above: Allen Ginsberg's family: Hannah (Honey) Litzky, aunt; Leo Litzky, uncle; Abe Ginsberg, uncle; Anna Ginsberg, aunt; Louis Ginsberg, father; Eugene Brooks, brother; Allen Ginsberg, poet; Anne Brooks, niece; Peter Brooks, nephew; Connie Brooks, sister-in-law; Lyle Brooks, nephew; Eugene Brooks; Neal Brooks,nephew; Edith Ginsberg, stepmother; Louis Ginsberg, Paterson, New Jersey, May 3, 1970; Photograph by Richard Avedon;© The Richard Avedon Foundation; From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Gift of the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Leonard A. Lauder, President, to American Friends of the Israel Museum.

Liat Segal: Scattered Light
January 2015 - July 2015

Israeli artist Liat Segal makes her US debut at the Museum with Scattered Light, an innovative work of new media art. The piece weaves together key phrases from George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island affirming his commitment to religious liberty (on view at the Museum) with the reflections of Museum visitors collected from our It’s Your Story recording booths. Both Washington’s words and the contemporary commentary speak to the significance of religious freedom and to the continuing role we all play in its preservation.

Scattered Light pairs the old with the new through the use of a wand embedded with LED lights that move over a photosensitive surface, “printing” Washington’s words along with those of Museum visitors. The texts fade away over time, allowing new content to appear, creating an ever-evolving dialogue between history and the present.

Segal, who recently exhibited at the Venice Biennale, drew from her multidisciplinary background, including her past work as a researcher at Microsoft Innovation Labs and as a teacher at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, to create this installation.

Liat Segal and her Confession Machine, photo by Arnon Fisher.

Generous support provided by:
Shirley and Albert H. Small

israel logo
Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region

Jane and Stuart Weitzman

'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah
November 4, 2014 - March 1, 2015

’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah explores the history of Hanukkah and Christmas music and the musicians, artists, and songwriters who wrote and performed them. The installation combines a cozy living room setting with modern technology to deliver a compelling story about the blending of American and Jewish musical traditions. ’Twas explores how performers used popular songs to shape the sounds of the holiday season, the soundtracks of religious holidays, and the musical standards we know today through interactive song and video platforms, as well as images of holiday-related artifacts from the Museum’s collection of 30,000 objects—all delivered on curated iPads accompanied by text and graphics of holiday celebrations.

The installation features well-known artists such as Irving Berlin, Benny Goodman, Bob Dylan, the Ramones, and Lou Reed, as well as Christmas gems by the likes of Jewish salsa giant Larry Harlow, and Jewish stage and screen icons Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson.

A holiday-themed self-guided tour highlighting holiday-related objects in the permanent exhibition will also be available.

This exhibition is a collaboration between the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation.
Photo courtesy of the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American
March 13 - October 26, 2014

Baseball was a kind of secular church that reached into every class and region of the nation and bound millions upon millions of us together….Baseball made me understand what patriotism was about, at its best.

— Philip Roth, “My Baseball Years,” New York Times, Opening Day, April 2, 1973

There are people whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond mere batting averages or stolen bases. They didn’t just play the game, they changed the game. For generations of American Jews and other minorities, they served as athletic, cultural, and ethical role models. On March 13, 2014, just in time for the start of baseball season, the Museum will open a groundbreaking new exhibition highlighting these game changers and—just as importantly—the fans, ideals, and culture they inspired. Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American is the first large-scale exhibition to use the story of Jews and baseball as an opportunity to highlight ways in which our national pastime is part of the history, and ongoing story, of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds—including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others—become American, to feel a part of the society in which they might otherwise be on the margins. It will be on view at the Museum through October 26, 2014. 

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Major support provided by:


Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American has been made possible in part by
a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

  • Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation
  • Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation
  • Richard A. and Susan P. Friedman Family Foundation
  • Marc and Diane Spilker Foundation
  • Leesa & Leon Wagner, The Wagner Family Foundation
  • Harriet and Larry Weiss
  • Judy and Fred Wilpon
  • Sam Wisnia

Additional support provided by:

  • Oakland Athletics, John Fisher and Lew Wolff
  • Clayman Family Foundation
  • Cozen O’Connor Foundation
  • Gary Goldring
  • Steve and Myrna Greenberg
  • Macy’s
  • Michael G. Rubin
  • Susie and Robert Zeff
  • The Morris, Max and Sarah Altman Memorial Trust; Arronson Foundation; William S. Comanor Charitable Fund; Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Edward H. & Evelyn Rosen Philanthropic Fund; David Seltzer

      And many other dedicated fans


 Now Showing: "Pop" Lubin’s Silent Film Empire
September 22, 2013 - February 2014

A passion for scientific experimentation and innovative technology – along with a strong ambition to achieve the American dream – led a spirited young German Jewish immigrant to become a central figure at the very dawn of the film industry.

Landing in the United States during its centennial year, Siegmund Lubin (ca.1841-1923) peddled eyeglasses across America before settling in Philadelphia in 1885. He began making magic lantern slides as a side venture in his optical shop but, after viewing early motion pictures at a trade fair, he was hooked on the new medium and began to experiment with films shot in his backyard. He was soon marketing his own camera equipment, opening theaters, and distributing films, eventually establishing a network of studios that stretched across the country. The crown jewel of this empire was Betzwood, a dignified estate outside of Philadelphia that Lubin planned to turn into a model industrial village – and the greatest movie studio of the day. Beloved by employees who called him “Pop” Lubin, he shared his success by providing generous salaries, medical benefits, and free hot lunches to all of his workers.

A combination of calamities forced the self-appointed “King of the Movies” to declare bankruptcy and return to ophthalmology in 1916, but the generation that built Hollywood remembered and honored his leadership in the early days of the film industry.

Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age
February 2013 - May 2014


Presented by the National Museum of American Jewish History and Moving Traditions this exhibition shows how bat mitzvah evolved from a radical innovation into a nearly universal American tradition. A fascinating story of how individuals shape and change ritual, Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age offers a unique lens into the dynamism of Jewish life.


Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age is designed for easy travel and installation in small galleries, JCCs, and synagogues. To inquire about bringing the exhibition to your community, please contact Assistant Registrar Sasha Makuka.


Generous support for Bat Mitzvah Comes of Age is provided by The Streisand Foundation.


For more information, please visit


The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats 
July 19 - October 20, 2013

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is the first major exhibition in this country to pay tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose beloved children’s books include Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, and The Snowy Day. The exhibition invites visitors to discover over 80 original works by this groundbreaking American Jewish artist, the first to feature an African-American protagonist in a modern full-color picture book. With works ranging from preliminary sketches to final paintings and collages, the exhibition also offers a reading area for visitors of all ages, drawn from Keats's art and stories.

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, from the collection of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, The University of Southern Mississippi. The exhibition was funded at The Jewish Museum through a generous grant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Joseph Alexander Foundation, the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund, and the Winnick Family Foundation.

Image Caption: Ezra Jack Keats, “Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow.” Final illustration for The Snowy Day, 1962. Collage and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Hemmed Up: Stories through Textiles Keir and Ernel 250
July 9 – August 25, 2013

Acclaimed Philadelphia-based artists Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez developed this textile installation as part of their Hemmed Up project for the Museum’s inaugural year of our OPEN for Interpretation artist-in-residence program. The team was inspired by the American Jewish relationship to the textile industry and the themes of immigration, labor, and struggle.








Jewish Artists in America 1925-1945:
Selections from the Collection of Steven and Stephanie Wasser

January 29 - June 23, 2013
Concourse level

From rural fields to city streets, American Jewish artists of the social realist movement depicted life in the United States without romanticizing the hardship and struggle they saw. They recognized that layoffs, food shortages, housing crises, dustbowls, and escalating antisemitism at home and abroad meant their American dreams might be farther off than expected. These passionate and political artists took advantage of the freedom their homeland offered to celebrate and critique America. Whether working independently or as part of the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program that supported artists and other workers in troubled times, they chronicled the city streets, labor conditions, and private moments that made up the realities of life in America.


Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges
January 15 - June 2, 2013

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges tells the story of Jewish academics from Germany and Austria who came the U.S. after being dismissed from their teaching positions in the 1930s. Some found positions at historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow South. Through over 70 evocative artifacts and documents, this exhibition illustrates the empathy between two minority groups with a history of persecution who came together in search of freedom and opportunity, and shared the early years of struggle in the Civil Rights movement.

Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges was created and is circulated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage- A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

This exhibition was made possible through major funding from the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional support provided by the Helen Bader Foundation; The Lupin Foundation; The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation; public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; the Alpern Family Foundation; and the Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation.

Image: Professor Ernst Borinski teaching in the Social Science Lat, Tugaloo College, MS, ca. 1960.
Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History
In Philadelphia, the exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Macys, PHC, and the Lomax Foundation.
Additional support from: Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation
Media sponsorship provided by WURD Radio.



RIFA: Sky & Water Paintings
August 28 - December 30, 2012

The Museum was pleased to exhibit Tobi Kahn’s remarkable series of thirty-three Sky & Water paintings on its Concourse level.  Visible throughout the Museum’s atrium, the installation was a sublime reflection of Kahn’s lifelong engagement with art and nature and his passion for exploring the correspondence between the intimate and the monumental.  As Kahn has stated, his aim is “to encounter the ineffable God in both splendor and intimacy.”

An artist who “breathed new life” into abstract painting according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tobi Kahn’s work has been shown in over 40 solo exhibitions and over 60 museum and group shows since he was selected as one of nine artists in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art.  His paintings and sculptural masterpieces can be found in major museum, corporate, and private collections, as well as public spaces such as chapels and synagogues.  

Click here for more information about Tobi Kahn.




Casual Conversations
May 6 - August 19, 2012

Casual Conversations explores, through photographs by artists Alina and Jeff Bliumis , how we define our identities. The artists focused on Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood, home to a large Russian Jewish immigrant community.  They set up their camera on the boardwalk and invited passers-by to chat and eventually choose words that described their identities.  The photographs that resulted suggest how we grapple with the complexities of heritage and homeland.  This exhibit is presented in association with Jewish American Heritage month and features photographs as well as an opportunity for Museum visitors to participate in the conversation by taking their own identity snapshots.

Alina and Jeff Bliumis are New York-based artists who aim to take contemporary art out of the gallery and into communities, where they create a kind of art/research laboratory in the public sphere.  They have received support from the Six Points Fellowship, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Franklin Furnace Fund, and the Puffin Foundation.

Alina and Jeff Bliumis received support from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records, and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, as well as major funding from UJA-Federation of New York.

Click here for images from the exhibition.




To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington & Religious Freedom
June 29 - September 30, 2012

To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom explores the faith and freedom in early America and features the historic correspondence between the nation's first president and the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island.  A Stunning constellation of artifacts tells this story about the foundation of religious liberty - a story with Philadelphia roots and national relevance.

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Tal Shochat:
In Praise of a Dream
February 1-April 22, 2012


The presentation of seven dramatic, large-format images from photographer Tal Shochat’s series, In Praise of a Dream, transported visitors to an idealized garden of fruit trees while inaugurating an exciting new exhibit space on the Museum’s Concourse level. Impeccably pruned and photographed against a black backdrop, Shochat’s trees—all photographed in Israel—have been disembodied from their natural surroundings, yet each stands lush with fruit and in dream-like perfection. At the same time, the trees invoke questions of rootedness, about Jews’ millennial history as a Diaspora people and their relationships to the homelands in which they have chosen to settle.  Shochat's photographs also serve as a dramatic reminder of human responsibilities to the environment in which we live.
These prints were first exhibited in the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York, which represents the artist. Tal Shochat (b. 1974) is a noted photographer and teacher in Israel and has had solo shows at Rosenfeld Gallery, Tel Aviv, Herzliya Museum of Art and Haifa Museum of Art. Her work is in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the Shpilman Institute of Photography, Tel Aviv.
In Praise of a Dream opened February 1 and helped the Museum usher in Tu B’Shevat (the Festival of Trees). It ran through April 22, Earth Day.
Photo credit: Rimon (Pomegranate), 2010, C-Print