What's to do and See in the Museum of Jewish Heritage?
Designed by the architects Kevin Roche John Dinkeldoo and Associates, the museum is built in a six-sided shape with a tiered roof. The six sides symbolize the traditional Jewish symbol – the Star as David – and also pays tribute to the six million victims of the Holocaust. An additional four-story wing was added in 2001 and incorporates a state-of-the-art theater, a memorial garden and other educational venues. The museum is located in the middle of a beautiful flower garden that changes with the seasons, and visitors can get an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the top floor of the building.
Three floors of display present visitors with a vast range of over 15,000 artifacts relating to nearly every facet of Jewish life, including books, religious objects and artwork.
Documentaries are shown throughout the museum, which chronicle the lives of Holocaust survivors and their personal testimonies.
The museum’s collection emphasizes three very distinct periods in 19th and mainly 20th century Jewish history – the period before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust and after the Holocaust. The collection uses first person accounts to explore the depth and beauty of Jewish life, the horrors of the Holocaust experience and the hopes and dreams that people have for the future through the creation of the State of Israel and other positive events after the war.
“Jewish Life a Century Ago” pays tribute to the history and customs of Jews before the war. Artifacts and photographs are used to chronicle the rich communities and how their fates were intertwined with the historical events of the time.
“The War against the Jews” explains how these Jewish communities faced the rising tide of madness and hatred towards them by the Nazis, as well as the horrendous experiences of persecution, ghetto-life, work camps and death camps. The collection also presents the way that many Jews fought back against their oppressors in incredible acts of bravery, even at the price of certain death.
“Jewish Renewal” celebrates the emergence of the Jewish people from the ashes of the Holocaust and their determination to rebuild their communities and values. It chronicles the miraculous creation of the State of Israel and the flourishing of communities in the Diaspora such the United States and the rest of the world.
The most recent addition to the Museum of Jewish Heritage is the Robert M. Morgenthau Wing that is used for performances, education and special events. It is also where additional exhibitions are held to supplement the core collection of the museum.
The Garden of Stone
Renowned outdoor sculpture, Andy Goldsworthy, was commissioned by the museum to create a unique garden, which opened its gates to the public in 2003. The garden has single dwarf oak saplings emerging from boulders in a space of 4,135 square meters. It is expected that as the saplings grow in later years, their bases will fuse with the stone, creating a ‘garden of stone’. The garden is intended to serve as a living memorial for those who survived the Holocaust.
The Museum’s store offers a wide selection of items relating to its theme, including Judaica, jewelry, books and art. All proceeds from purchases in the store go towards the upkeep of the museum.
The café in the museum offers visitors a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty and is the perfect place to rest and reflect after a tour of the museum. The café serves a variety of deli type foods, including sandwiches, salads and soups and is certified Kosher (parev).
Visiting with Children
Due to the particularly disturbing and graphic items displayed on the second floor, it is recommended to use discretion when visiting this area with children. The first and third floors, however, make for an interesting and educational visit for visitors of all ages. A special family guide, available at the admissions desk, presents a tour of the first floor of the museum and is geared to children ages 7-11.