The public dimension of museums leads them to perform the public service of education—a term that in its broadest sense included exploration, study, observation, critical thinking, contemplation, and dialogue.
–American Association of Museums
For those looking for ways to make sense of the world, museums can help us understand our place within history, in the present, and into the future. Contemporary museums are not just repositories of artifacts, but rather have transformed into progressive engines of education. Their multi-sensory and multi-dimensional nature, together with their educative mission, has resulted in innovative offerings and opportunities for visitors.
Admittedly, I am a museum geek. In fact, my passion for seeing the “real thing” led me to a career in the museum field. Within my work, one of the hardest audiences to attract is my own demographic: the 20-to-30-something young professional. My own friends frequently roll their eyes at my suggestions to visit cultural destinations.
Allow me to dispel some nasty museum myths. Museums are not just for schoolchildren. Adult visitors are not presented with those annoying trip sheets that your third-grade teacher demanded you meticulously complete. You don’t need to be an art historian to enjoy art or a scholar to appreciate a historic site. Nor do you necessarily have to pay an exorbitant entrance fee. Lastly, contemporary art comes in many forms—because it is constantly being created, there is always something new to explore.
Today’s museums offer a diverse programming menu, including performances, literary events, films, and concerts. They even venture into the urban wilderness with walking and bike tours. Around the world, exciting exhibitions and innovative programs are scheduled in a town near you. Each of the following enlivens a facet of Jewish life, and none should be missed:
1. Museum at Eldridge Street
Sacred Sites Bike Tour
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The Museum at Eldridge Street, located in the recently restored landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue, presents the history and culture of Eastern European Jewish immigration to America, drawing parallels with other immigrant groups.
Join its inaugural bike tour to explore historic houses of worship in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights, from grand landmarks like Eldridge Street and Plymouth Church to down-home structures representative of the diverse ethnic and religious communities of New York City.
2. Contemporary Jewish Museum
Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919 -1949
April 23, 2009 – September 7, 2009
$10/adult; $8/seniors and students; $5/Thursdays after 5 p.m.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum just reopened in an exciting 1907 landmark building, redesigned by Daniel Libeskind. Organized by the Jewish Museum, New York, this exhibition brings to light a remarkable period in the early years of
the Soviet Union, when innovative visual artists, including Marc Chagall, Natan Altman, and Robert Falk, joined forces with avant-garde playwrights, actors, and producers to create a theater experience with extraordinary mass appeal.
The exhibition’s highlights include paintings, costumes, and set designs.
3. Institute of Contemporary Art
Ugo Rondinone: clockwork for oracles
November 4, 2008 – November 1, 2009
$12/person; free Thursday evenings
The Institute of Contemporary Art was conceived as a laboratory to champion innovative approaches to art. Its award-winning building, designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro and located on Boston’s waterfront, is alone worth
the visit. The current installation, clockwork for oracles, by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, covers the lobby’s Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall with 52 mirrored glass windows in a rainbow of colors. The title is taken from a poem by Edmond Jabès,
a writer known for his meditations on exile and Judaism. The installation asks viewers to reflect upon the nature of time, as well as to enjoy its sensory qualities.
4. International Spy Museum
Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 12 p.m.
The International Spy Museum is the first and only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on this all-butinvisible profession. During this lunchtime author
debriefing and book signing, join best-selling author Neal Bascomb as he explores one of the most influential spy missions in history—the Mossad’s hunt for Adolf Eichmann.
The Girl from Foreign
Monday, April 27, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.
$20/person; $15/member; $10/student
The stunning 10-story faceted window wall that forms the façade of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies mirrors the organization’s mission and values of offering a literal “window” into the world of Jewish learning and culture. The Girl from Foreign is an eye-opening film and a beautifully crafted memoir by Sadia Shepard, a young half-Muslim, half-Christian woman from Boston who travels to India to connect with her family’s Jewish past.
6. The Vilna Shul
What to Wear When You Are Fighting the Patriarchy
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
$10 suggested donation
The Vilna Shul, quiet for 20 years, is again filled with the sounds of Jewish culture. Its Making a Mark Speaker Series presents Lauren Antler, a renaissance woman who is comedian, teacher, and project director for the Jewish Women’s
Archive’s award-winning documentary film, Making Trouble. “What to Wear” is performed with Lauren’s mother, scholar Joyce Antler, author of You Never Call, You Never Write: A History of the Jewish Mother. Lauren lives five minutes from her
mother, “across a very busy, DANGEROUS street,” according to Joyce.
7. The Israel Museum
From March 1, 2009
36 NIS/adult; 26 NIS/student
The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel. Founded in 1965, the Museum houses encyclopedic
collections, including the most extensive holdings of biblical and Holy Land archaeology in the world. In “Paperworks,” paper becomes a dynamic force when used by young Israeli artists to reflect their attitude toward nature, locality, and childhood.
8. P.S. 1
October 19, 2008 – May 4, 2009
$5 suggested donation
P.S.1 is one of the oldest and largest non-profit institutions in the United States devoted to displaying the most experimental and contemporary art. Currently on view is the work of Israeli artist Yael Bartana, known for her complex photography,
film, video, and sound installations that investigate society and politics. Using both documentary materials and reenactments, Bartana reconstructs events and memories, both tragic and playful.