Visit us At 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall

Museum Musings

9.13.2018 'Bernstein' on the Move!

 Permanent link

It was a bittersweet goodbye as we closed Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music earlier this month. But we’re thrilled to see it begin its national tour! The first large-scale exhibition to document Bernstein’s life, work, Jewish identity, and social activism, containing approximately 100 historic artifacts, will open October 4 at Brandeis University. It will be free and open to the public through November 18, 2018. Next year, the exhibition will be on view at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, OH, beginning September 22, 2019 through February 22, 2020. Bernstein logo


The arrival of this exhibition will symbolize Bernstein’s return to Brandeis University, where Bernstein was an influential member of the music faculty and the founder of the university’s Festival of the Creative Arts, which today honors his legacy as an artist, an educator, an activist and a humanitarian. The exhibition will be free and open to the public.


The Maltz Museum uses a Jewish lens to explore diversity and tolerance in Ohio and throughout America. Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music will complement the Maltz Museum’s core exhibition, which explores the uncertainty and hope many American Jews experienced in the twentieth century.

The exhibition has garnered significant media attention, including coverage by The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY, CBS, and TIME. The New York Times identified Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music as“among the most notable homages to Mr. Bernstein.”



Photo by Jessi Melcer
 Installation view of Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music at NMAJH. Photo by Jessi Melcer.

6.20.18: Shabbat Shira Lenny

 Permanent link

The first time I heard "Simple Song" by Leonard Bernstein, from his epic concert/theater piece MASS, I was a high-school student performing with my choir at a city prayer breakfast. A fellow choir member, who even in high school had a tremendous voice and went on to a singing career, sang this solo. I can hear him in my head singing this piece to this day.


At the time I already knew Bernstein as the composer of West Side Story, which I knew was based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, and I also knew about Bernstein's Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. But I will never forget hearing Simple Song, because I knew upon first hearing it there is something different about it. It isn't quite for the theater, it isn't quite for the concert hall, it is a prayer, and although I would not have heard it in my synagogue, I heard the Judaism in it.


There is a lot of Judaism in this piece. Bernstein quotes Psalm 121, I will lift up my eyes to the hill from whence comes my help, and Psalm 96, I will sing the Lord a new song. There is a lot of Judaism in all of Bernstein's work because Bernstein was deeply knowledgeable about Judaism and proudly identified as a Jew, at a time in our history when that was not always easy.