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Museum Musings

Who Am I?

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The Museum’s exhibit, Casual Conversations, created by photographers Alina and Jeff Bliumis, invites visitors to pose with signs signifying their identities.

I haven’t done it yet because I’m not sure what one word best describes me. There are the givens: male, white, Jewish (not listed in order of importance).  Others I could consider include brother, uncle, Springsteen fan, dude. But they are all so limiting. 

So, I’m holding off until I come up with the perfect word to describe myself, or at least one that I think will do the trick.

I have until August 19. That’s when the exhibition closes. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to come by and share your identity.  You can check out how others have identified themselves on our Flickr site.


-- Contributed by Jay Nachman

    Public Relations Director


Photos, NMAJH 2012

Schweitzer Collection: 20,000 And Counting

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rexWhen I read this story about this amazing collection of African-American artifacts, collected by super-cool DJ Magnificent Montague, no less, I immediately thought of the Museum’s Peter H. Schweitzer Collection of Jewish Americana. 

In 2005, Peter donated an estimated 20,000 objects to the Museum that he had acquired during more than 25 years of collecting. 
Peter’s story about how his collection came about is remarkable. It began with some turn-of-the-century Jewish postcards and took off from there. An object here, an object there, and all of sudden, he had 20,000 objects and counting.

As he wrote when donating the collection to the Museum, “One item, alone and solitary, is an oddity. Find another like it and you already have a collection or at least a collection-in-the-making. When I owned only one neon clock advertising kosher sausage it was a fun conversation piece. But then I found a second … and a third … and eventually I lost count. Now that’s a collection!”hides

Fur StorageEventually, he amassed so many objects, and had no way of sharing them, that the time came for him to look for a place for the collection.
Upon choosing the Museum, he said, “I have found my collection a home where I believe it will continue to be cared for and preserved for generations to come.”

The collection contains objects that depict the everyday lives and experiences of Jews in America, both in their secular lives as well as their religious practice.  Included in the collection are signs, posters, tins, bottles, photographs, trade cards, menus, neon clocks, Yiddish typewriters, yearbooks, autograph books, textiles and ritual items.

Dr. Beth S. Wenger, one of the Museum’s historians, said “this is perhaps the most ambitious effort to collect objects that reflect the range of American Jewish experience.” 

bar mitzvahIf you are thinking, “Hey, that stuff should be on display in a Museum,” don’t worry.  Many of the artifacts from his collection are displayed in the Museum’s core exhibition. 


All objects from the Peter H. Schweitzer Collection of Jewish Americana.pickles


-- Contributed by Jay Nachman

Public Relations Director






Museum Has Wright Stuff For Groups

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As a lifelong Philadelphian and long-time Frank Lloyd Wright admirer, many times I’ve driven past the incredible Beth Sholom Congregation building and couBeth Sholomnted myself (and our region) lucky to have this gem designed by Wright in our midst. So I was delighted when Beth Sholom, located in Elkins Park about 45 minutes from the Museum, approached us last year about the two institutions working together.


Several months ago, a few of the staff from the NMAJH visited the shul and enjoyed a fantastic guided tour of this active congregation’s home-cum-Historic Landmark Visitor Center. The light-filled, tall sanctuary combined with the more intimate, and colorful chapel and social spaces left an impression on me. So did the informative introductory film, narrated by none other than Leonard Nimoy, and the interactive gallery featuring relatable stories by Beth Sholom’s varied congregants. 


But, more than the design or even the exhibition, what really drew me in was the compelling story of how Beth Sholom’s brilliant Rabbi, Mortimer Cohen, and Wright, the renowned architect, worked together in a seemingly unprecedented fashion to visualize and then realize this incredible “American Synagogue.”


The Museum jumped at the opportunity to partner with them and we now are offering a joint ticket, whereby group guests may visit the Museum and then take a trip to the ‘burbs to Beth Sholom to learn about the American Jewish experience as it plays out in one of the country’s landmark synagogues and congregations.


Check here for information about joint tickets between the NMAJH and Beth Sholom and other Museum group experiences.


-- Contributed by Megan Helzner

Group Experiences and Sales Manager


Museum Is Free For Mother's Day

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The Museum is free for mothers who visit with their families on Mother’s Day. That’s right, free. Zero. Zip. Nada.mother's day 2

But wait, there’s more.

On Mother’s Day there will be five Women in American Jewish History tours available at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on a first-come-first-served basis. Women highlighted in the tour include Abigail Franks, Rebecca Gratz, Henrietta Szold, Emma Goldman, and Betty Friedan.

And this is really cool. You can record a special Mother’s Day thank you in the Museum’s “It’s Your Story”™ video recording booth. You will be asked to finish the sentence, “I have my mother to thank for….” You can then share the video online or on your Facebook page, or email to your siblings and make them feel guilty for not being with your mom on Mother’s Day. 

Also, all mothers will receive a boutonniere when arriving at the Museum.

Hope to see  you here – it beats a card and flowers, doesn’t it?


-- Contributed by Jay Nachman

Public Relations Director