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Museum Musings

12.11.18 Antisemitism in America: Is Hate Speech Free Speech?

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How do we fight antisemitism while protecting the Constitutional rights of all Americans?

Last night's forum offered expert and sometimes opposing viewpoints in response to this challenging question as it pertains to the Jewish community. From historical context to contemporary issues around campus life, Israel, current events, and policies, our notable speakers discussed and debated these timely topics during their hour-long conversation on December 10, 2018.

Featuring Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director, The Lawfare Project and Greg Lukianoff, President & CEO, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The forum was moderated by Jeff Rosen, President & CEO, National Constitution Center/

This program was made possible thanks to support from The Snider Foundation.


You can watch the debate here, which was presented live on Facebook.


 Left to Right: Jeff Rosen, Brooke Goldstein, and Greg Lukianoff

11.28.18 'The Art of Rube Goldberg'

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The Museum's current special exhibition, The Art of Rube Goldberg, has received some wonderful press coverage! The Washington Post calls it "entrancing." To read more of the exhibitions recent press coverage, visit our Press Room.


The first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Rube Goldberg's work since the Smithsonian's 1970 celebration of the artist, The Art of Rube Goldberg explores his varied career from his earliest published works and iconic Rube Goldberg machine invention drawings, to his Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons, and more. Throughout his long career, Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) chronicled almost every salient aspect of modern American life. His work touched on everything from fashion and sports to gender, politics, and international affairs. This exhibition explores the artistry and wit that made Rube Goldberg one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and enduring cartoonists - and a household name.

We hope to see you at the Museum before the exhibition closes on January 21, 2019. To learn more about the exhibition, click here.

Rube Goldberg1  Rube Goldberg 2
Photos by Matthew Christopher Photography. 

11.1.18 #ToBigotryNoSanction

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Dear Museum Friends,

We at the National Museum of American Jewish History, like you, are deeply saddened and angered by the act of hatred and violence perpetrated on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27. We mourn the tragic loss of eleven people while they were engaged in one of the most basic freedoms that America has made possible for the Jewish community: observing their own religion. We must stand in solidarity with them as we condemn this horrific act.

At the Museum, we know that education is the strongest response to hate. Although our hearts are broken – and perhaps because they are broken – we respond by rededicating ourselves to our educational mission, working to inspire people of all backgrounds to understand and appreciate the values of heritage and identity through active engagement with stories of American Jewish life that we tell in our Museum every day.

I would like to evoke George Washington’s beautiful letter about religious freedom to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI in 1790, on view at the Museum, in which he vows that “our Government gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution, no assistance.” And, quoting the Hebrew Bible, also writes, “everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

These promises, made to the Jewish community more than 200 years ago, underscore the ideals of pluralism on which this nation was founded and are part of the fabric of our Museum. They have become a mantra for us over the past few days. Washington’s words remind us that we must be vigilant: the freedoms to which all Americans aspire must not be taken for granted and we must constantly work to attain and sustain the freedoms defined in these founding principles.

May we strive to make Washington’s vow a reality in our own time. We invite you to show your support on social media with #ToBigotryNoSanction.

In true Jewish fashion, we will rejoice through our tears, and celebrate together with extra vigor the accomplishments and contributions of the American Jewish community.

Wishing you strength and comfort,

Ivy L. Barsky
CEO and Gwen Goodman Director

9.13.2018 'Bernstein' on the Move!

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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

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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.