“So much to see–we could have stayed another hour!”
The core and changing exhibits at Jewish Museum Milwaukee explore the breadth of Jewish life and culture, both within the state of Wisconsin and beyond. The core exhibition opened in 2008 and features engaging displays and interactive features including an interactive map that highlights Jewish history through migrations.
Major Sections of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee
Jewish immigration to the United States was similar to that of other ethnic groups, but there were some distinctions. Jews often were fleeing persecution in their native countries, and the United States provided Jews with security and an opportunity to become fully engaged while maintaining their Jewish heritage.
Jewish Belief and Community
The idea of community is central to Jewish belief. Community is imperative in times of joy and sadness. The Jewish community established organizations to support peoples’ needs. Our Jewish community is united through religious identity and institutions such as synagogues and temples, but many people connect Jewishly through social and benevolent groups.
Earning a Living
The United States offered unprecedented freedom to Jewish immigrants, allowing them to hold occupations that were restricted in Europe. These people arrived nearly penniless, and most started working immediately as peddlers or tailors. Once they earned enough capital, they opened small stores and other entrepreneurial ventures.
Intolerance and the Holocaust
Incidents of persecution and intolerance are scattered throughout Jewish history. Jews were often blamed for problems. The Holocaust was the darkest time in Jewish history. Six million Jews were systematically murdered by Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party and collaborators. Local survivors speak about their experiences before, during and after the war in a short film, dedicated to ensuring that their stories will never be forgotten. While most pieces are local, there is a sculpture created by Israeli artist Magda Watts of her experience during World War II.
Israel and After
Two millennia ago, the Jews were driven from Israel into exile. But a few remained, and steadily more returned. The idea that Jews might reclaim their homeland survived through religious belief and practice. In the 19th Century, this religious desire for return to Israel became a political goal; this movement is called Zionism. Many community programs have helped develop deep organizational and personal relationships to the people and the country.
Contributions to Milwaukee and the World
The responsibility of “repairing the world,” or tikkun olam, is a fundamental concept of Judaism. Over a century and a half, Milwaukee’s Jews have lent a hand in repairing the world, for their city, state, nation and people.