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Education

Adult Learners

To serve life-long learners in our region and beyond, we offer thematic lectures, workshops, multi-session classes, and distance learning opportunities. Join us for a lively educational experience.

OFF-SITE PRESENTATIONS

Inspired by the diverse content of the Museum’s core exhibition, our traveling lectures highlight different aspects of the American Jewish experience. Each visually rich and engaging presentation shows the many ways in which Jews have shaped and been shaped by American society. Our lecturers will bring the excitement of NMAJH directly to your community, inspiring the audience to further explore the Museum’s collection, in person or online.  Each presentation is approximately 90 minutes in length and includes a PowerPoint presentation followed by a discussion. 

TRAVELING SUITCASE: HISTORY OF IMMIGRATION, 1880s-1920s 

The Traveling Suitcase lesson highlights the journey of Eva Baen, a young Jewish immigrant, to Philadelphia in 1913, and familiarizes students with the realities faced by many immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Participants “walk” in Eva’s shoes as they piece together aspects of her life, using Eva’s personal objects as well as primary source documents. The presentation encourages participants to make connections between Eva’s story and contemporary examples of immigration – including their own families’ stories.

The program introduces some of the main concepts pertaining to the immigration of people of Jewish heritage from Eastern Europe and Russia and introduces participants to the practice of examining and analyzing primary source historical artifacts and documents. Using the contents of the Traveling Suitcase, participants get a chance to experience how historians and museum staff use artifacts to complete research and tell stories through exhibitions.


SITE REQUIREMENTS
 

Lecture location must be within 30 miles of downtown Philadelphia. Your site is responsible for providing:  
  • a computer, projector, and connector cable; 
  • a screen or blank surface upon which to project; and 
  • a technician or computer-savvy person who can troubleshoot any technical problems that may arise. 

PRICING 
$250 per presentation

For content-related questions
, contact the Education Department at 215.923.3811 x272 or education@nmajh.org.

To book an offsite presentation
, contact Group Services at 215.923.3811 x141 or groups@nmajh.org. 

Guided tours

The Museum is pleased to offer a general introductory tour and a variety of thematic tours. These tours are available by advanced reservation only.  For pricing and booking information, visit the Group Services pages, or contact them at 215.923.3811 x141 or groups@nmajh.org.

INTRODUCTORY TOUR

Geared to and highly recommended for first-time visitors to the Museum, this tour offers an overview of 350+ years of the American Jewish experience, from 1654 to the present. Covering all three floors of the Core Exhibition, the tour explores key artifacts and stories in the context of the ongoing challenges and opportunities presented by unprecedented freedom. This is a great way for visitors to become oriented to the Museum’s many galleries, objects, films, and interactive components.

THEMATIC TOURS
Some topics may have size or date limitations, depending on docent availability.

American Jewish Writers
Jews in America have often used the written word - whether in music, literature, or theater - to express their experiences and struggles. In illustrating the lives of the authors’ own communities, many of these works have become representative of American life broadly. This tour explores the development of American Jewish culture through the writings of Emma Lazarus, Leon Uris, Allen Ginsberg, Betty Friedan, Phillip Roth, and Chaim Potok.

American Jews and American Law
From the tenets of Jewish liturgy that helped shape America’s Constitution, to the contributions of American Jews who fought to uphold this nation’s principles of freedom and justice, this tour offers profound insights into the American Jewish experience. Such diverse individuals as naval officer Commodore Uriah Levy, labor activist Rose Schneiderman, and Supreme Court justices Louis Brandeis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are featured.

America’s History of Imperfect Freedom
Although coming from different places and for different reasons, the Jews immigrating to America over the centuries have all shared a common dream: to live in freedom. But the freedom they found here has been imperfect, tainted by anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination. This tour explores how prejudice and social injustice, and responses to it, have shaped both the American Jewish community and its relationship to American society at large.

Art, Creativity, and Design
Jews in America have been creating works of art since colonial times, developing new ideas and styles in painting, photography, architecture, and material-culture design. This tour explores the factors that shaped these artists, and the ways in which their works express the diversity of American Jewish experiences. Individuals highlighted include silversmith Myer Myers, sculptor Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel, and the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Jews and the American Frontier
Whether braving the unsettled West or spearheading the flight to the suburbs, Jews have long pushed the boundaries of traditional American life, helping to shape the United States. This tour focuses on the role of Jewish immigrants in the settling of the American “frontier,” exploring what it means to be a pioneer, literally and figuratively. The adventures of Levi Strauss, Anna Solomon, Otto Mears, and Rachel Calof are among those featured.

Women in American Jewish History
From housewives, mothers, and keepers of Jewish tradition to social activists, community organizers, and champions of civil rights, this tour examines the changing roles of women from the 1650s to the present day, exploring the contributions they made to both Jewish and American life. Abigail Franks, Rebecca Gratz, Henrietta Szold, Emma Goldman, and Betty Friedan are among the notable women whose stories are highlighted.

SPOTLIGHT TALKS

Spotlight talks about specific artifacts or stories in our Core Exhibition are periodically available on holidays and other special occasions. Check at the Admissions Desk as to whether any talks are happening on the day of your visit. 

ADULT EDUCATION CLASSES

PAST OFFERINGS

1917: War, Revolution and American Jewish History

In conjunction with the special exhibition 1917: How One Year Changed the World, this program will present two visually-rich lectures highlighting the immense changes happening before and after this pivotal year. These talks will focus on a constellation of political, social, and cultural events that took place in the Jewish community in America and internationally as well as their interconnections.  Join us as we explore the vortex of World War I and how it impacted and transformed Jewish life in America, Europe and the Middle East. 

Session 1: March 15. Into the Storm:  Jews and World War I, 1914-1919
Despite its immense legacy that we still feel today, many Americans have forgotten the story of WWI. Even fewer are familiar with the history of Jewish involvement in this global struggle. This lecture will highlight the general course of the war and role that Jews played on both sides. Focusing on topics such as the founding of the Jewish Mule Corps, the Balfour Declaration, and the British victory in the land of Israel, we will explore in a "day by day" fashion the remarkable epoch which ironically came to be known as the War to End All Wars. 

Session 2: April 27. Après le Deluge:  How World War I Transformed the Jewish People, 1919-1932
World War I significantly impacted Jewish life around the world. Three empires with significant Jewish populations — Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian — collapsed, the British Mandate in Palestine was established, and xenophobic legislation closed America’s doors to immigrants. Soon after the war, conditions in Germany fostered the rise of Nazism and laid the groundwork for the Holocaust. These and related topics will be discussed in this panoramic presentation on Jewish history, 1919-1932. 

Instructor: Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, PhD, with presentations by Joan Myerson Shrager

Hebrew Calligraphy and the Gilded Word

Learn the art of Hebrew calligraphy in time to create your own unique holiday gifts!
Calligraphy 1: Practice writing Hebrew letters in formal calligraphy and then try your hand at embellishing a word or letter using ink and water-based color linked to in the tradition of medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscripts and more contemporary illuminated haggadot (texts recited during the holiday of Passover) and ketubot (Jewish marriage contacts).
Calligraphy 2: Review basic Hebrew calligraphy techniques and further explore the art of gilding and decorating Hebrew letters.

Instructor: Dr. Susan Leshnoff, Associate Professor of Fine Arts and former Chair of the Department of Art, Music and Design at Seton Hall University. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (BA in Art History), University of the Arts (MA in Painting/Art Education), and Columbia University (Ed.D. in Art Education). Before arriving at Seton Hall University, she coordinated the art education programs at Montclair State University (New Jersey) as Assistant Professor and lectured on the history of Jewish art at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey for 5 years. Prior to moving to Philadelphia, she frequently offered workshops in Jewish art in New Jersey. A painter in water-based media, her artwork has recently been exhibited in New York City, Philadelphia and galleries in New Jersey, currently has a solo exhibition of her paintings at the Lederer Gallery at SUNY Geneseo (New York), and will be in a group show at the Pleiades Gallery (New York City) in December.

Baseball and Becoming American

Drawing on primary and secondary sources featured in Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, this series of lectures will examine the ways in which American baseball has served as a reflection of and a catalyst for the development of American culture since the 19th century. It will focus on the ways baseball was an agent of integration for new arrivals to America, as well as an arena for addressing civil rights. The role of baseball in transmitting values and traditions across generations through familial relationships will also be explored.

Instructor: Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert, Professor of Religion at Temple University. She is also the author of Out of Left Field: Jews and Baseball and advisor to Chasing Dreams.

Special guest instructor: Jeffery S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University and an advisor to Chasing Dreams.

"Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof": American Jews and Social Justice

Jews have been disproportionately represented in movements for social justice in this country. Why have so many Jews been drawn to the labor, consumer, anti-poverty, civil rights, civil liberties, and women's movements, among others, and what valuable contributions have they made? This class will familiarize students with the work of American Jews who have "made a difference." We will discuss the writings of Jewish activists such as Clara Lemlich Shavelson, Stephen Wise, and Abraham Joshua Heschel, exploring the ways in which traditional Jewish values, the Jewish historical experience, and trends in American society shaped their activism. These historical figures serve as inspiring role models for individuals and groups engaged in tikkun olam (repairing the world) efforts today.

Instructor: Reena Sigman Friedman, Ph.D.