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Upcoming Special Exhibits

Exhibits at Jewish Museum Milwaukee explore the breadth of the Jewish experience and offer visitors to connect with history, culture and the arts.


Chagall’s Le Cirque

June 14 – September 8, 2019
Opening Preview: Thursday, June 13, 7:00 pm

‘For me, a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world. These clowns, bareback riders and acrobats have made themselves at home in my visions. Why? Why am I so touched by their make-up and their grimaces? With them I can move towards new horizons.’ –Marc Chagall

For Marc Chagall, the circus stage was the ideal setting for the dreamlike, extraordinary acts ever-present in his art. In Le Cirque, he summoned the spectacle of the circus experience in all its colorful variety — clowns, acrobats and women riding bareback, stands brimming with onlookers — as a vivid metaphor for the sometimes precarious artist-lifestyle he had decided to lead. With time, the circus came to lie at the very heart of his personal mythology and became symbolic of the human condition.

Le Cirque consists of 23 color and 15 black-and-white lithographs published in 1967 by Tériade Éditions. The whimsical prints will be accompanied by a display that explores Wisconsin’s grand circus history, and celebrates the tradition of Milwaukee’s Great Circus Parade.

Chagall’s Le Cirque is organized by the Rahr-West Art Museum, City of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Images courtesy of Rahr-West Art Museum; © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.


Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini

September 27, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Opening Preview: Thursday, September 26

Harry Houdini wasn’t born. He was invented.

The world’s most famous magician began life as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. In 1878 immigration to the U.S. transformed Erik Weisz into Ehrich Weiss. It was the first of many transformations for the man who would become the first international superstar.

Inescapable, curated by performer and magician David London, tells the story of how Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar. On one level, the exhibit is pure fun – incorporating magic, escapes, séances, films, rare artifacts and hands-on illusions.  On a deeper level, the exhibit pulls back the curtain, revealing the story of the man behind the image.

Houdini in Wisconsin shines a spotlight on his appearances in the state where he learned the literal tricks of his trade. Throughout the exhibit, visitors also will have the opportunity to try out some of Houdini’s magic tricks, including the world’s smallest version of Houdini’s biggest illusion – making a five-ton elephant “vanish.”


The Girl in the Diary: Searching for Rywka from the Łódź Ghetto

January 24 – May 17, 2020
Opening Preview: Thursday, January 23, 7:00 pm

In 1945 a Soviet doctor found a school notebook in the liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp. It was a diary written by the teenager Rywka Lipszyc in the Łódź Ghetto between October 1943 and April 1944 — the testament of a Jewish girl who lost her siblings and parents, but never lost hope despite moments of doubt. More than 60 years after its discovery, the diary traveled to the United States to the Holocaust Center of Northern California where Dr. Anita Friedman began the task of trying to locate answers about the notebook and its writer. An international research team was established – all them looking for answers and for Rywka Lipszyc.

Rywka’s diary, a moving memoir of life and adolescence in the Łódź Ghetto, is the starting point for this exhibition. Selected passages are supplemented by expert commentary from historians, doctors, psychologists and rabbis. These commentaries help us to understand the context of the times and events Rywka refers to in her diary. The historical and intimate artifacts displayed in the exhibit, including beads, thimbles, and toys, serve as witness to the personal dimensions of the Holocaust.