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Museum Musings

12.23.16: Making New Christmas Memories

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Usually, I spend Christmas Day sitting on the sofa in my pajamas, eating a once a year feast for one, and binge-watching Christmas themed movies. Last year, I didn’t. I searched the internet for an event that would force me to leave my apartment, and meet people, or, at least, learn something new. And I found

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The week before Christmas, I bought a ticket to Being ___ at Christmas, and spent Christmas Eve prepping my clothes and choosing which bus routes would get me downtown and back on the holiday schedule. When Christmas Day finally arrived, I got to the National Museum of American Jewish History an hour after it opened, and spent four hours touring every floor of the building, from the top down.

Beyond the abundance of history, I found that Being ___ at Christmas was about family, and humanity. I noticed both, everywhere: from a father holding the hand of his toddler as they slowly walked up the stairs, to eyes scanning the faces and bodies of those who were obviously different but moved on without attempting to engage, and for those who did. I witnessed it on every floor.

On the floor where the story of American Jews began, a teen-aged boy stood with an older woman discussing a display before he leaned into her side. Automatically, the woman wrapped her arms around his back, lovingly. A grandmother excitedly told her grandson, who was more interested in handling everything, that she attended one of the summer camps named along one of the walls of the Dreams of Freedom exhibit. In front of the Palmer Raids display in the Choices and Challenges exhibit, a man and his wife mused over the similarities between justifications for mass deportations then, and the anti-immigrant rhetoric of today. And, at the video exhibit on the death of a Jewish man falsely accused of murdering a teen-aged girl, a volunteer and I spoke of the South, and its history of mob lynching under the guise of justice. Seemingly much had changed, but the struggle to treat each other as equals worthy of respect was never ending.

CJTerry 2Those moments remain with me because they reminded me that the struggle to sustain a distinct cultural identity without abandoning my humanity or negating my Americanness was a universal story. It was my story.

—Written by CJTerry

12.16.16: Museum Staff Holiday Gift Guide

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Still looking for the perfect gifts to give this holiday season? Below, NMAJH staff members share their favorite items from the Museum Store. (Spoiler: It’s not all menorahs and dreidels!)

Alisa gift 2Alisa Kraut, Assistant Curator:
“I have been a big fan of Lemony Snicket's work with A Series of Unfortunate Events, his very delightfully dark children's series. I bought The Latke That Wouldn't Stop Screaming two years ago and have made it a holiday tradition in my home. With non-Jewish family members and a school-aged daughter in a secular public school, I am always looking for ways to affirm the traditions of Hanukkah without feeling the need to compare it to the ever-present elements of the Christmas season. To quote the book: 'I am something completely different!' This book is slightly irreverent and very quirky, with plenty of humorous moments to please adults and children."
Ryan gift

Ryan Bott, On-Site Technician:

“My pick is a combo package: Golden Girls zippered pouch with accompanying table coasters. It's a great gift because…it's Golden Girls. Stay Golden.”
Kate gift

Kate Beach, Gifts Processor: 

“I picked the Mistaken Lyrics Coasters. I love this gift because we’ve all mistaken or misheard even the most ubiquitous lyrics. These coasters will always get a laugh, and it’s one of so many fun tie-ins to our Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution exhibit.”
Arielle gift
Arielle Amiri, Group Services Associate:

“One of my favorite items in our Museum store has to be our Rock & Roll hotel keychain series. The series features room keys for hotels like the Hotel California and Grossinger’s Resort but my personal favorite is unquestionably the Chelsea Hotel “Room 204” key, a.k.a the room infamously occupied by Patti Smith. This gift works for fans of Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, and so many other iconic rock and roll artists too!”

Jenny gift 2
Jennifer Isakowitz, Public Relations & Digital Marketing Manager

“I loved artist Deborah Kass’s giant OY/YO sculpture in Brooklyn Bridge Park this past year. While the sculpture is no longer there, the OY/YO collection items in the Museum Store give the artwork a second life.”

Emma gift

Emma Calvitto, Senior Manager of Institutional Giving: 

“My parents gave me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook one year for Hanukkah, and it has been a gift that keeps on giving. The Artichoke Heart-Stuffed Shells and Raspberry-Ricotta Scones have become go-to recipes that I would recommend to any cooking enthusiast on your gift list!” [Buy Smitten Kitchen Cookbook at the Museum Store or shop other cookbooks online here.]
Charlie gift

Charlie Hersh, Education Assistant:

“My pick is any of the Beautiful Yetta books by Daniel Pinkwater. Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken is a great book for early readers about a beautiful chicken living in multicultural NYC, who just needs help getting home. I love it for the trilingual text – Yetta, who speaks Yiddish, interacts with other animals speaking English and Spanish, but no one lets language barriers get in the way of making new friends. Translations and pronunciation guides help families practice words in all three languages!”