March is Women’s History Month and we celebrate the women, both known and unknown who have fought for justice, created rights for others, and opened our eyes to the realities of the broader world. Here are seven women that we are eternally grateful to for helping to shape the world we live in today:
Golda Meir (1898 – 1978)
own Golda Meir started speaking for social justice on street corners as a
teenager. She moved to Palestine in 1921, set on creating a Jewish state in the
land of Israel. She signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 and
became the third prime minister of Israel in 1969.
Coretta Scott King (1927 – 2006)
Coretta Scott King is known as the ‘First lady of the Civil Rights movement.’ She advocated against the apartheid in South Africa and its terrible racial policies by calling attention to the issue and pressuring President Reagan to take action. Nowadays, middle-school aged girls can attend the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Atlanta where they can learn about leadership as well as academics.
Faye Schulman (1919 – )
Faye Schulman was born in Poland to a loving large Jewish family. She was able to escape her imprisonment during WWII during a partisan raid and joined them in their efforts. Faye is the only known Jewish partisan to capture the World War II experience on film. Schulman’s rare collection of images captures the camaraderie, horror and loss, bravery and triumph of the rag-tag, tough partisans – some Jewish, some not – who fought the Nazis and their collaborators.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 – )
Born in Pakistan in 1997, Malala Yousafzai made a huge impact on the world after she was injured by the Taliban after a normal day of school. The Taliban banned all of the girls from her village from any education but Malala demanded her education and continued attending. Since the injury, Malala has advocated successfully for human rights especially for the right to education for young girls. She has won a Nobel Prize for her efforts and continues to advocate for all life.
Vera Atkins, CBE (1908 – 2000)
Vera Atkins was a British intelligence officer who worked in the French Section of the Special Operations Executive from 1941 to 1945 during WWII. After the war, Atkins was determined to uncover what happened to French Section agents that went missing during missions in enemy territory. Originally she received little support and some opposition but eventually gained support and funding from the Secret Intelligence Service which helped her discover what happened to 117 of the 118 missing agents. Atkins was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1948 and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by the French government in 1995. Additionally, she was appointed CBE or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1997.
Sonia Sotomayor (1954 – )
Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. She has the distinction of being the first Hispanic and Latina Justice. She focuses on issues of race, gender and ethnic identity. She continues to bring a alternate perspective to the court and makes sure that every race is represented in decision making.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 – 1997)
Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese-American experimental physicist who made significant contributions in the field of nuclear physics. Born in a small town in Shanghai, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu attended school at an early age even though it was uncommon for girls to receive educations in Shanghai at the time. Wu worked on the famous Manhattan Project and was also the first woman to serve as president of the American Physical Society. She won many awards for her discoveries and has affectionatly been nicknamed “the First Lady of Physics,” “the Chinese Madame Curie,” and the “Queen of Nuclear Research.”
Special thanks to Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Honors Humanities students who researched and prepared this list.
Wow! Three years. It really doesn’t seem possible that I have been at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee for three whole years. They say that time flies when you are having fun, and if you consider fun the ability to learn, grow, converse, contemplate and create; then I have certainly had my share at JMM.
The people, the programs, the exhibits, the education programs and the special events all make each day meaningful and unique. I am awed by the talent of the staff and interns, inspired by the passion of the board, docents and exhibit committees, touched by our visitors’ stories, thankful for treasured donations to the archives, warmed by the thousands of school children who visit, grateful to our loyal members and encouraged by the donors and all who believe in what we do.
JMM is strong today because of this collective passion, vision and dedication.
JMM occupies a unique niche in the museum world in Milwaukee. We use the Jewish experience to build bridges between groups of people and between eras. We live our tagline “Where Conversations Happen” by looking at multiple perspectives of a topic or issue, by partnering with diverse organizations, by asking visitors to use critical thinking skills to contemplate commonalities and differences of a particular subject over time. The board and staff of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee met this fall and after considerable discussion, data gathering, and reflection put to writing our collective understanding of what we see as JMM’s impact in the Jewish community, Greater Milwaukee community, South Eastern Wisconsin schools and residents, and even national audiences.
“Use the Jewish experience in Milwaukee and beyond to connect and create dialogue on relevant critical issues and to inspire and transform visitors.”
We certainly had that goal in mind when we decided to exhibit Allied in the Fight: Jews, Blacks and the Struggle for Civil Rights and related programming this past winter. The intent was to share the history of these two groups as it relates to the Civil Rights movement and the Fair Housing marches of 50 years ago. We were also intent on building bridges between the two communities and two eras. The exhibit engaged the national and local alliances between African Americans and Jews historically, during and after the 1960s, and contemplated issues that are relevant today. Programs explored redlining, segregation then and now, and contemplated actions needed for moving forward toward effecting positive change. The exhibit and programs fittingly ended with an African American Jewish Freedom Seder. Twenty City of Milwaukee schools were subsidized so they could bring their classes to learn about the Civil Rights era of 50 years ago. One thousand nine hundred students learned about this important time period. Diverse audiences came to the nine sold-out programs. These programs demonstrated that the audiences were hungry for information and open dialogue – wanting to understand Milwaukee’s history and to take actions to change the status quo.
One visitor commented, “My first time at this museum and it was powerful and inspiring about the past and present of this state. Don’t change too much, we have lots to do!” Another stated: “Beautiful exhibition. Two voices that can only build off each other.”
The remount of Stitching Histories From the Holocaust, is at its essence stories about the human toll and talent lost during the Holocaust. The stories of three families with local ties personalizes the enormity of the Holocaust. JMM added a timeline to the exhibit which highlights immigration laws and anti-Semitic activity from the 1920s to 1950s. The three families’ watershed moments complete the timeline – asking visitors to contemplate the personal toll laws and public opinion had on the outcomes of these three families.
This October, with our most ambitious exhibit to date, JMM will consider the question that echoed through the United States in the 1940s and 1950s: Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?
JMM’s originally curated Blacklist: Hollywood’s Red Scare explores the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigation of alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens and organizations suspected of having communist ties. Driven by fear of the spread of global communism, HUAC demanded that actors, writers and directors declare if they ever had communist ties and to name others who may have communist affiliations. HUAC and its supporters espoused that it was a citizen’s patriotic duty to share their political affiliation and to identify others’ associations. Those who refused to declare their affiliation or to name names felt they were the defenders of the First Amendment Rights of Free Speech and Assembly.
I hope you were impacted and maybe even transformed by the exhibits and programs of the past year, as I was. I certainly hope you join us this fall as we contemplate and discuss the definition of patriotism. We hope school children explore the exhibit and partake in workshops to learn more about their First Amendment rights. Thank you to all of you for making my first three years memorable, transformative, insightful and treasured. Please join us again and again, for only through shared discourse and learning can we make a difference.
It is the time of the year to reflect upon those people and events that made the year special. At the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, we have so many people to thank: visitors, educators, docents, artists, members, donors, board and committee members.
Foremost, I am thankful every day that the Jewish Museum Milwaukee exists. To the people and staff who put the Museum together – thank you. I am excited to come to work to learn, explore, contemplate and share. It is a rare day indeed when I do not learn a new fact or am challenged to think about a topic in a different way. Museums are places of exploration and learning, and JMM is incredibly fortunate to have curious staff, volunteers, visitors and supporters.
With the rise of violence and hate speech, I feel extremely privileged to work at an institution that at its heart, shares its history of discrimination, intolerance and hate, and connects the Jewish story to other peoples’ stories. Such work promotes empathy, new ways of looking at situations, and cements human bonds. I know I speak for the entire staff when I say this work is meaningful, important and deeply gratifying.
This past year JMM had four exceptional special exhibits. We are extremely grateful to the artists and supporters who made them possible. Once and Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman explored this exceptional artist’s photography and glass sculptures. Beth’s creativity, openness, intellect, and talent made the exhibit and her programs rich, thoughtful and compelling.
Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz touched the lives of everyone who saw the exhibit; from school children to seniors; from the many repeat visitors to new audiences drawn to her use of needle and thread to tell her remarkable story. We are ever indebted to Esther’s daughter, Bernice Steinhardt, who ensured her mother’s story could be shared with the world.
Moments & Markers: An Adolph Rosenblatt Retrospective enabled JMM to share this remarkable artist’s stories of Milwaukee with a broad audience. We are grateful to the Rosenblatt family, who used their considerable skills and time to clean, conserve and move the art, share stories of Adolph with the staff and visitors, and share their unique talents with program attendees.
The Seventh Day: Revisiting Shabbat allowed JMM to look at Shabbat observances in a traditional sense and through a contemporary lens that addressed a continuum and connection between art and the science of mindfulness. The exhibit and related programs explored spirituality, relaxation techniques, diverse ties that bind, and, importantly, looked at tools to remain connected to those things and people that are truly important.
Family donations made JMM what it is, and families continue to think of us when distributing family heirlooms, photographs and documents. We received many donations this year and all are special. I do want to highlight two donations that will be exhibited in 2018. Louise Stein generously donated two remarkable pieces of Judaica by Yossi Swed that will become part of the permanent exhibit. Edie Shafer donated her family’s documents and photographs of their flight to Shanghai in order to escape Nazi Germany. Her extraordinary story will be shared with the public during the Stitching History From the Holocaust exhibit next spring.
Members are the lifeblood of any museum. We are exceptionally privileged to have loyal members who come to many of the over 40 programs per year, offer us feedback, and support in so many ways. JMM is fortunate to have corporations, foundations and individuals who support the work we do. Their financial support allows for a robust special exhibit schedule and dozens of programs. We in Milwaukee are extremely fortunate to have donors who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
JMM depends on docents and volunteers to carry out its mission. Our docents are simply amazing. They learn about each new exhibit and work with age groups from elementary school to senior citizen. They work weekdays, weekends and evenings. Without this core group of devoted individuals, JMM would not be able to touch so many lives. We are truly grateful.
Volunteers help with each exhibit, with raising funds, reaching diverse audiences, and determining programs. They give their time, ideas, and passion. Each exhibit is better because of your input. When there are so many places you could spend your time, we realize you chose to spend it with JMM and we are very appreciative.
Finally, to the staff and board of JMM – thank you for your vision, your hard work and your support. The Museum is only as informative as your creativity and intellect, only as welcoming as your graciousness, and only as engaging as your openness. Your commitment to our mission, to the public and to our members is noteworthy.
Thank you to one and all for all you do and bring to Jewish Museum Milwaukee. May the coming year treat you and yours with kindness, health and happiness.
I’m thrilled to begin my term as the President of the board of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
The first time I met Patti Sherman-Cisler, our executive director, she talked about museums providing transformative experiences. I, too, believe the stories we tell at JMM have the power to be inspirational and transformative for our visitors.
As a strong believer in life-long learning, I have always been a museum enthusiast–but serving on the JMM board for the past five years has turned me into a museum advocate.
I advocate for the JMM when I gush about our latest special exhibit—and each one is always somehow better than the last—and when I urge friends to attend upcoming programs. And I hope you do this type of advocacy, too.
But there is so much more we can do to help grow this wonderful resource for our community. I’d love to see more of you, our visitors and supporters, advocate for us by:
∙ Becoming a member of the museum at the Associate level or above and gifting a membership to another family
∙ Recommending JMM on travel websites like Yelp! and Trip Advisor ∙ Hosting your meetings and special events at JMM—anything from book clubs and Scout troops to wedding parties and non-profit boards
∙ Encouraging your child’s educators to bring student groups for tours ∙ Connecting our archivist with friends and neighbors who may have items for our collection
∙ Introducing our executive director to your CEO, board chair, or other community leader
∙ Inviting a member of our staff to speak to your congregation, club, or class
∙ Sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Istagram ∙ Responding to local media coverage of our exhibits and programs with a letter to the editor sharing your museum experience
∙ Asking your employer to match your donation
∙ Telling other community organizations about us, our work, and our potential as a partner
∙ Thanking our exhibit sponsors and donors
∙ Contacting your elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels to let them know of your support for public funding for the humanities, arts, and culture
I believe that the JMM can help us transform our relationships with others by exploring Jewish experience and identity and by finding commonalities with people from all backgrounds. I believe the JMM can inspire ingenuity and imagination by celebrating humanity’s resilience and creativity.
And I believe the JMM can transform and inspire you into becoming a museum advocate, too.
Jewish Museum Milwaukee has accomplished a lot in our first nine years—join us in celebrating NINE things that we want to cheer about. Which is your favorite?
1. Stitching History From the Holocaust
This award-winning exhibit has been in five venues, and been seen by tens of thousands of visitors; it earned international media coverage and spun off projects as diverse as a one-act play and designs inspired by Hedy.
2. Over 16,000 student visitors
JMM has worked with students from throughout the state and beyond (as far away as Israel, Germany, China, and Malawi!). With each group tour, we have the opportunity to help young visitors better understand Jewish history and peoplehood. One 8th grade student said, “This experience is going to affect me in life, because whenever I see something that’s wrong or I see an individual infecting people’s minds, I will speak out against it and not let it go any further. The lesson I’ll take with me is to not let people control me or anyone.” Multiply this times 16,000 and you can understand the importance of the work we do!
3. Three-time winner of the Governor’s Archives Award
In 9 years, we have hosted over 300 programs! They run the gamut from the first ever Milwaukee Mah Jongg Tournament to Lost Music from the Holocaust with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, from Bud Selig sharing his baseball history to Bob Reitman talking about Bob Dylan. We have featured academics, artists, and filmmakers. People have shared hidden history, expertise, and personal memories. Thousands of people have come to these events and have left with new information, insight and understanding. This is the cornerstone of our tagline—“Where Conversations Happen”
7. Digitized 15,000 historic images collected from Milwaukee families
With more than three decades of collecting under our belt, JMM has a lot of IMAGES in our collection—15,000 of them to be somewhat exact. Last summer, we embarked on a largescale project to make these pieces more accessible, which started by scanning them all. We now have a number of interns and volunteers working to tag these pieces, with the hopes of getting them up on the internet. Let us know if you are interested in helping with this project.
What other museum has highlighted everything from Chagall’s Bible prints to Jews Who Rock, from common knowledge like baseball to undiscovered history like that of Mildred Fish Harnack, the only American executed on direct orders of Adolf Hitler. Each exhibit has allowed our staff and volunteers to develop themes and ideas that strengthen the understanding of Jewish life and the human spirit. Learn more about all of past exhibits here. We certainly will not be resting on our laurels in this arena. Under the leadership of our exhibit committee, JMM recently formalized its calendar for the next two years. Here is your early (cryptic) preview: Adolph Rosenblatt, Shabbat, Civil Rights, Stitching History, Blacklist, Vedem.
One does not have to be a textile artist or even a hobby sewer to be in awe of the artistry in fabric and thread of the 36 hauntingly beautiful quilts by Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. I first encountered them when the extraordinary picture book Memories of Survival came to my attention as a librarian a dozen years ago. It is a treasure not only of lush textile landscapes and dazzling embroidery by a non-artist, but as a family document of tragedy and loss, and as a confirming survivor testimony of Nazi terror. I purchased the book for the MJDS library, and for myself. It has had a privileged spot on my bedside bookshelf, and in my psyche as a quilter all these years.
Story quilts and other storytelling textiles are not new. They have been made world over throughout history. This collection has pointed significance for us in 2017, though. It again reminds us it is our obligation, as Esther knew, to pass on the stories of our parents and grandparents to our children and their children in any way we can.
These scenes and accompanying text nag at us. Why the Jews? What power do we have over evil? How do we defend ourselves against irrational governments? How do we protect our most vulnerable citizens? What does it mean to be a refugee? And what responsibilities do we have for those being persecuted?
Fabric has been my playmate from the time I was a young girl delighting in colorful discarded hems from my seamstress grandmother, to collecting fabric samples from around the world at flea markets, to teaching quilting and embroidery, and to immersing myself in quilt subculture. My interest in Jewish genealogy has led to recent trips in Poland and Ukraine to explore the life of my ancestor’s towns, in the general area of Esther’s village. How could I not be excited by the Fabric of Survival exhibit? It has been a privilege to be involved with it. Thank you Jewish Museum Milwaukee for bringing it to us.
The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is grateful for 2016 and looks forward to 2017….all thanks to you!
Thank you to all of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s members, donors, Legacy participants and visitors. You made the museum a vibrant resource for people of every color, creed and age. Many of you came to exhibits such as Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination, Southern Exposure: The Jews of Argentina or to Project Mah Jongg. Several of you came to all of the exhibits; bringing your personal stories, thoughts and opinions.
Through your commitments the Jewish Museum Milwaukee fulfilled its mission by providing over 40 programs in 2016. Your thoughtfulness continues to allows us to promote critical conversations between diverse people including over 2,000 school children. Discussions in 2016 included historic and contemporary uses of propaganda, the effects of immigration policy in WWII and now, the impact of game playing on memory, and so much more.
The award winning Stitching History From the Holocaust opened in New York at the Jewish Heritage Museum, traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will open this month at Florida International University in Miami Beach. Your contributions allowed JMM to travel this amazing story and touch the hearts and minds of thousands. The exhibit continues to garner attention and will be featured for 3 months on the Big Ten Network. There are more stories we can tell with Milwaukee roots and your contributions allow our archives to grow; this summer we digitized almost 15,000 pictures and are now in the process of tagging these image to allow us easy access for the future.
2017 is shaping up to be just as exciting and diverse, where even more timely and relevant topics will be explored. The first exhibit, Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, explores the emotionally impactful work of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. Haunted by terrifying memories of the Holocaust—the family and childhood she lost—Esther turned to needle and thread to tell her story. Viewers will be guided through vivid visual recollections recounting one woman’s experience, her cloth collages serving as a vehicle for comprehending the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and a means of healing and storytelling through artistic creation. With no formal training she created a series of 36 exquisitely detailed fabric pieces. Using a range of stitchery and the techniques of embroidery, quilting and collage, the resulting body of work draws viewers in with its visually naïve charms and arrests them with a complex narrative riddled with horrors, loss, and love.
Through your year-end donations JMM will schedule presentations on art and the Holocaust, art as a healing response to trauma, cross-cultural traditions of storytelling through fabric art, cross- generational programming and sharing of personal narratives, as well as stitching Sundays and a celebration of Fiber Arts. Your donation allows JMM to explore topics of resiliency, teach school children about the Holocaust through an accessible art form and celebrate an art form that too often is disregarded as women’s work.
This summer JMM celebrates a local artist, his remarkable ability to capture a seminal moment and the Eastside of Milwaukee with Moments and Markers: An Adolf Rosenblatt Retrospective opening on June 16. Throughout Adolph Rosenblatt’s long artistic career he has connected with people and touched their lives in meaningful ways. His curious nature, love of human beings and affinity for observation and capturing meaningful and everyday moments translates into his work.
A painter turned ceramist and inspirational art educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he taught from 1966 to 1999, Rosenblatt has been documenting life and historical events through sculpture and large-scale installations for over 30 years. Many of his sculptures capture the unique characteristics and charms of Milwaukee people and places, and in a broader sense offer a window into culture and life composed of a mosaic of moments. Historic and momentous events inform Rosenblatt’s work as well – ripped from the news headlines physically emerge from newspaper and magazine pages with depth and dimensionality creating resonate connections spatially, emotionally and intellectually between viewer and narrative. This originally curated exhibit will celebrate the creative contributions and imaginative mind of this beloved, locally based artist. The retrospective of his work will feature some of his massive installations, including The Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter and My Balcony, a large-scale installation of Milwaukee denizens in the Oriental Theater balcony.
Programs under consideration include an insider’s tour of famous Eastside Milwaukee haunts, a Milwaukee-centered story telling night, a ceramic studio tour, a panel discussion on Milwaukee’s East and West side’s histories and a student exploration that pulls participants from throughout Milwaukee to create their artistic vision of Milwaukee.
We can’t wait to share the art, the history, the stories. Join us in these important conversations, with relevant issues for today and offering important context for understanding history. Your donation to the year-end fund ensures that these programs take place–to enrich adults and children alike; to promote critical conversations and to build empathy and build bridges. Thank you, thank, thank you for your generosity and the staff and board of Jewish Museum Milwaukee looks forward to seeing a lot of you in 2017!
Jewish Museum Milwaukee has been privileged to participate in the Create a Jewish Legacy Program, which is coordinated through the Jewish Community Foundation of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Create a Jewish Legacy is a community dedicated to ensuring the future of Milwaukee Jewish institutions by promoting endowment giving. Over forty people have signed a letter of intent to leave a legacy to JMM–we will be celebrating their stories here!
Penny Deshur has been engaged with the Museum since before it opened as a Museum. Through her work with the Wisconsin Jewish Genealogical Society, Penny took pictures and documented local cemeteries creating an important collection that genealogists worldwide can utilize through the JMM website–for this work, Penny won the prestigious Governor’s Award for Archival Advocacy.
As Museum planning began, Penny volunteered to be a docent and was in fact the first volunteer to work with any group in the Museum. She then became the president of the organization. She was thrilled to be able to undertake the Create a Jewish Legacy program under her presidency, helping fulfill one of her goals for her term, helping the community understand the importance of endowments for institutions like ours!
Penny Deshur receiving the Governor’s Award for Archival Advocacy
Penny had this to say about the importance of this program and endowment giving:
“As a past president of Jewish Museum Milwaukee, I look back at the museum’s development and am so proud of what it has become. Its future is bright. As a docent, I’ve seen and heard the positive responses of the visitors, young and old. I feel a responsibility to secure the future of Jewish Museum Milwaukee for our children, grandchildren and the community at large.”
In particular, she has a passion for exploring the lessons of the Holocaust and using themes of resilience, bullying, and personal responsibility to help students understand this devastating time period, and to build connections to their experiences.
Thanks to Penny for her hard work to make this Museum accessible and viable for visitors , for those who visit in person or virtually, and for helping Jewish Museum Milwaukee secure its future by Creating a Jewish Legacy.
In thinking about the show “Once & Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman” we wanted to develop a number of ways for visitors to connect with this exhibit. Beth Lipman lives and works in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, but her work and renown is national. We wanted to find other people who fit this bill–who choose to live in Wisconsin and have reach throughout the country. Our first “Local Lives, National Voice” speaker is filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein. He will be speaking at JMM on September 18 at 5:00 PM. RSVP Here>>
I first met Brad Lichtenstein through his work at UW-Milwaukee. He founded the docUWM program and created a film with the students there called Chosen Towns, which in some ways is a preview to his newest movie, There are Jews Here. While There are Jews Here is about small Jewish communities nationally, Chosen Towns reflected on the small Jewish communities throughout Wisconsin.
His work extends well beyond shrinking Jewish communities. He has created work for Al Jazeera America, PBS, and the Washington Post among other national outlets. This piece examines the changing political culture in Wisconsin for a series that appeared on the Washington Post’s website:
Over a year ago he launched Precious Lives, a powerful radio series on WUWM, examining the impact of gun violence on Milwaukee. He sat down with the host and producer of the series after the unrest in Sherman Park this summer to have a candid talk about what they had just experienced. This conversation is an important way to reflect upon the state of our city and different ways of engaging. You can find that talk here>>
At his talk at JMM, he will be talking about the breadth of his work, including his new film. There are Jews Here will be screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Tickets are available here!
A conversation overheard in the Jewish Museum Archives between Hazzan Jeremy Stein and Artist Marc Tasman. They have been working in the archives to find pictures that will form the backdrop of their upcoming concert Fiddler: The Untold Tradition, which will take place at Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid on Sunday, September 11 at 7:30 PM. Learn more about this concert here>>
Marc Tasman (MT): What are we doing here today here in the archives at Jewish Museum Milwaukee?
Jeremy Stein (JS): We are looking through the digital archives, searching for images to be used as part of the scenic design, the backdrop for the “Fiddler: The Untold Tradition” performance.
MT: My goal, my desire in this research is to find really compelling images, not necessarily to literally illustrate the song, but to find funny, poignant or striking images that will help to add some visual interest and and new layer of meaning and connection for the audience.
JS: Where are we putting Houdini?
MT: I dunno, with the song, Letters from America? I mean, you’re already reimagining Fiddler by adding the unheard songs, songs that were written for Fiddler on The Roof, but were cut because they were thought to be too character driven. And of course, Fiddler isn’t set in Milwaukee, so we’re adding this other new lens, one that imagines both non-linear time and—
JS: Miracle of Miracles!
MT: Yes of course! That’s where Houdini goes. Yes, I suppose in theatre and music and art, time and place are both very slippery and flexible.
JS: I like to think that what we’re doing is making those universal themes visible in our time and place. Making that connection to Milwaukee, the Jewish community, wherever Jews are, really, Israel, too. We have some images from Israel and other places, but really these are images that come from the Milwaukee Jewish community. Real people, real families. And we are here.
MT: Yes, we’ve been looking at lots of images of Jewish Milwaukee businesses, families, weddings, meals, birthday parties, people at work, unusual occurrences and everyday life.
JS: Yes, but who knew it would be so hard to find an image of a sewing machine. Yes, but, aha! Here it is! We found one. Finally! I know where that one should go in the program.
MT: We’re just like Mottel the tailor—we finally got our sewing machine!
MT: Yes, but some of these photos are so mysterious, so hard to figure out what is going on. It’s really fun to imagine for what occasion these photos were made. Speaking of characters, these are some really impressive Jewish Milwaukee characters. But, what are we going to do with the image of the six young women dressed like cowgirls. They are dressed like cowgirls, right?
JS: Yes, the image file name is called Cowgirl Troupe. Yes, some are really out of context or even defy context. But they are still so beautiful and strange. Baby doll parties? Who knew that was a thing?
MT: It’s going to be so great to show these images. When was the last time people had a chance to see these?
JS: Well, it’s a great use, a great reason to bring these photos out into the public, giving them a new life, and a new context inside this concert and performance.
MT: Untold Traditions
JS: Untold Traditions.
Hazzan Jeremy Stein is the Cantor at Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale, WI. Marc Tasman is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies and coordinator of the Digital Arts and Culture Program at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The summer Olympic Games, kicking off today in Rio de Janeiro, marks the 120th anniversary of the first modern Olympics held in 1896 in Athens. It is also the 120th anniversary of the first Olympic gold medal won by a Jewish athlete, Alfred Flatow. Born in Gdansk, Poland in 1869, Alfred Flatow represented Germany in the gymnastics competition. Flatow won gold in the parallel bars and the team competition, as well as taking the silver medal in the horizontal bar. Alfred lived in Germany after his Olympic career, but when Hitler rose to power, Alfred was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp where he died in 1942.
Alfred Flatow, first Jewish Gold Medalist
While Jewish athletes have garnered their fair share of medals (347 total) Israel has only seven. Although the nation of Israel officially formed in 1948, the Palestine National Olympic Community has represented the “Jewish National Home” since 1934. Israel sent its first athletes to compete in the Olympics in 1952. 25 athletes competed across five events but failed to take home a medal. It wasn’t until 1992 in Barcelona that Israel claimed its first Olympic medals thanks to judoka Yael Arad and Oren Smadja. Arad won the silver in women’s half middleweight judo, and Smadja the men’s lightweight classification.
This iteration of the summer Olympic Games gives Israel its best shot at another Olympic gold; its first and only gold medal was won by Gal Fridman in 2004 for men’s sailing. Fridman has two of Israel’s seven Olympic medals, winning his first in Atlanta in 1996. But this time around it is the women’s turn for glory as the rhythmic gymnastics team looks to double up on gold medals from the 2016 European Championships, held in Israel in June, and most recently the World Cup in Azerbaijan.
You probably don’t follow the Israeli rhythmic gymnastics team, but they rival any excitement found elsewhere in the world of sports. The five teammates Alona Koshevatskiy, Ekaterina Levina, Karina Lykhvar, Ida Mayrin, and Yuval Filo are all competing in their first Olympics. The five gymnasts have an average age of 18. The oldest, Ekaterina Levina, is 19 years old. The youngest, Karina Lykhvar, is just 17. The gold medal at the European Championships was a first for the nation, won in the “clubs and hoops” category. Israel also took home a silver medal in the ribbons competition, and a bronze in the all-around. At the World Cup, the team won gold in ribbons and placed fourth in clubs and hoops, which was good enough for second overall, behind world number ones, Russia.
Just two weeks prior to the World Cup, head coach Ira Vigdorchik reportedly kicked gymnast Ekaterina Levina in training. On top of the kicking, Vigdorchik was accused of being both verbally and physically abusive to the girls, as well as drinking during practices and competitions. In spite of the accusations, a committee put together by the Israeli Gymnastics Association determined that Vigdorchik would remain the head coach of the team if by name only; two coaches and a choreographer will continue to physically coach the girls in the gym. It is likely that Vigdorchik was allowed to stay on as head coach only because of the proximity to the Olympics.
Israel has some stiff competition for the gold medal, particularly from other European countries, with Russia competing as the favorite. The Russian team placed first in the all-around at the European Championships and World Cup. Following the International Olympic Committee’s ruling to disallow a blanket ban of Russian athletes, the rhythmic gymnastics team has (so far) escaped individual punishments handed out to athletes. Only the all-around competition is awarded a medal for team rhythmic gymnastics, so it is all or nothing for Israel.
The rhythmic gymnastics competition kicks off August 19th and concludes on the final day of the Olympics on the 21st. Watch the group qualifications live on USA Network, Saturday at 9:00AM (EST) and the finals Sunday, live on NBC at 11:00AM. Still not excited enough? Check out Israel’s gold medal routine from the European Championships below and tell yourself you can do anything these women can.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people wait expectantly starting in late March. Any day now they will receive the new Mah Jongg Card from the National Mah Jongg League. This year over 350,000 ordered their card and waited to see what hands they would be playing this year. When you think about games, just think that every year the people who play mah jongg with the National Mah Jongg League rules have to figure out a new set of winning hands each year.
I visited the headquarters of the National Mah Jongg League, which recently relocated across the street from Macy’s in New York to discover how the card is made. I met with brothers David and Larry Unger who run the League. They took over for their mother Ruth, who died in November 2015. She was involved with the organization for over 50 years and saw the growth of the League and the expansion of the game. The League was developed in 1937 by a group of Jewish women who wanted to ensure that they were all playing the same game with the same rules and the same winning hands. The group developed a card with winning hands and they played with it. As they traveled, they took the card with them and the women they interacted with in The Catskills or Miami adopted the card too and took it back home with them. Within a couple of years, the card was a viral with women all over the country utilizing the card and rules set forth by the National Mah Jongg League.
But how does this mysterious card get put together? That was the big question that I had for the Unger Brothers when I met with them. They described for me an awesome process led by volunteers that has been going on for almost 80 years. Starting in August, a group of women come together with their thoughts on what the new card should be. This group has over 500 years of combined mah jongg experience. They play out variations and tweak the winning hands until November when they finalize the card for the coming year.
Once the card comes out, National Mah Jongg League volunteers answer phone calls about the card, helping people understand all of the new intricacies. It’s an amazing volunteer-led process that reaches a multitude of people and connects friends each year. In addition, the proceeds from the card benefit charities. This was always one of the aims of the National Mah Jongg League, to provide a built in fundraiser to support causes that impact the people who play Mahj; the organization has supported the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association and many others (you can find a partial list here). I left the offices inspired by the collective work of this organization and their commitment to their product.
The center of the Mah Jongg universe…
Volunteers answering ALL of your Mah Jongg Questions
Larry and David Unger, presidents of the National Mah Jongg League
Have Yourself a Merry Little Mah Jongg by Anneliese Dickman
Anneliese Dickman’s family plays mah jongg at Christmas
This may sound funny coming from a board member of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, but to me, Mah Jongg goes hand-in-hand with Christmas. On my Christian side of the family, Christmas evening is for cocktails and Mahj around the tree. We have collected several beautiful vintage sets over the years, more than enough to have three or four tables going at once. Men, women, and teen kids all play, with winners earning bragging rights and the option to rotate to a new table.
To my Jewish family and friends, it is always a surprise to learn that this gentile girl from the foothills of Colorado plays Mah Jongg, because many Jewish players don’t know about the military’s version of the game. Both my father and grandfather had been officers in the Air Force; my mother and grandmother started playing Mahj with the other wives in their officers’ wives’ clubs. The game was so widespread among military wives in the 1930s that the wives from the Army Air Corps field in Ohio, now known as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, decided to write down the rules of play in order to “allow players to transfer from base to post to port and still play the same game.”
The Wright-Patterson book is the rulebook that my family uses, although we don’t always use the most recent edition. We prefer an older version of the book with our favorite special hands (over 100!), such as Piano Keys and Razzle Dazzle. We love to reminisce as we play—the funny names of each hand trigger memories from years past. Like the time Uncle Bill misunderstood the rules and had Mah Jongged without declaring it…and then got mad when it didn’t count. Or, the first time my pre-teen cousin Kelsey played. Her extremely competitive nature kept her usually-very-active body glued to her chair for hours until she finally declared “Mah Jongg!” Followed shortly thereafter with an exasperated, “Finally! Now I can quit playing this crazy game!” We’re pretty sure it was also Kelsey who once played with a pair of underwear on her head, trying to change her luck after drawing too many unhelpful tiles.
When I went off to college, I was delighted to find a roommate who also played Mah Jongg, but was confused when she showed me a solitaire game on her computer that bore almost no resemblance to the “real” game. I felt vindicated when a grad student from China understood my confusion and invited me to his apartment to play Mah Jongg with his family.
As it turned out, I didn’t play “real” Mah Jongg, either. Not only did the tiles in the Chinese set not have Arabic numerals, making them nearly impossible for me to decipher, there was no rulebook and no list of hands! Without a list of hands to study, the gameplay happened much faster. In fact, the game was so fast-paced, the Chinese players didn’t even take the time to look at each tile as it was drawn, they merely rubbed their thumb across each tile’s face and decided immediately whether to keep it or discard it.
Needless to say, I learned my lesson—“real” Mah Jongg is in the eye of the beholder. I find it fascinating that so many cultures and subcultures can claim versions of the game as their own, and I’m eager to learn more about Mah Jongg’s Jewish history and traditions. I’ll be taking beginner Mah Jongg lessons at the Museum this summer. I can’t wait to learn the deal with the Joker tiles. (Isn’t that cheating?) And I heard a rumor that Flowers are used in some hands. (What? They aren’t just good luck tiles that allow a second draw?) This Christmas, I might even introduce some new traditions to my family’s yuletide Mahj game.
This is the first known picture that we have found of Lizzie Black Kander. It was donated recently to the JMM Archives in an album.
By Sharon Levy, Intern
In June of 1878 a young woman graduated as valedictorian from East Side High. Her name was Lizzie Black. She’s more commonly known in the Milwaukee Jewish community by her married name—Lizzie Kander, the founder of The Settlement House and the creator of The Settlement House Cookbook.
Lizzie’s speech was titled “When I’m President” and took a satirical look at the social issues of the day. Quoting Henry Clay, “I’d rather be president than be right,” she proceeded to spout rhetoric evocative of today’s political climate. She joked that the underpaid congressmen were too busy taking bribes to be able to get their work done so the best way to increase their productivity was to raise their salaries. Also, despite graduating as valedictorian of her class, she accused education of creating an economic drain on American society and changing people’s ideals.
“The Earth will scarcely have moved fifty times around its orbit before the sun will look down on a deserted country, unless a change takes place in the government, and we have at is head, an honest, reliable person, one who shall be a friend to the rich, and the poor, alike.”
Lizzie combined the hyperbole of all politicians trying to get a rise out of the voters in order to bring a larger turnout—political tactics have not changed significantly since then. Big issues like immigration, climate change, and women’s reproductive rights are often used to move crowds to vote.
While climate change wasn’t a big issue in the 1870s, immigration and especially commerce were important topics.
“Commerce, on which the very life of our nation depends, is almost entirely destroyed, and if we allow this state of affairs to go on much longer, we shall soon be isolated from the rest of the world, like China. The wealth of the nation is in the hands of a few individuals, who are accumulating more every day, while the poor are becoming more miserable. Our men are forgetting that truth, honesty, virtue, and love are far more valuable to the happiness of mankind than extravagant modes of living… Would you have these sorrows removed? Then elect me as your president and I will…[establish] free trade.”
Lizzie’s reasons for wanting economic change are based on the principles of helping the poor but she never exactly explains how her economic plans could benefit anyone other than the rich, competing for buyers and profits on a controlled market. Instead of outlining any legitimate plans, she simply makes her claims that one will equal the other, similarly to today’s political tactics.
Even though politicians have always been paid well and are generally on the wealthier side, they are always in control of salaries and insurance for working people.
“We cannot blame the congressmen for taking bribes. If we would give enough reward for their services, they would be tempted to forget that they are in a position of a great responsibility, and that they are working for the benefit of the masses, and not for the sake of a few rich individuals; and so, if we would have to give out a few thousand dollars more, yearly, work would be done more cheerfully and better.”
The average congressman’s salary in 1874 was $5,000—about $100,000 dollars today with inflation rates. That’s double the “average person’s” salary today!
By the end of this speech, the parody is clear. But at the beginning of the speech, some of Lizzie’s concerns are legitimate problems in the community around her, which she tends to her in her later life and career.
One part of her satire, however, was the very fact that she was a woman announcing her presidential platform. Lizzie was a progressive reformer and a very liberal-minded individual for the time she lived in. Despite her jokes about forays into politics, she wasn’t a believer in women’s suffrage. She chose to use her time helping women in the settlement house integrate into American life, calling suffrage an “unnecessary distraction.”
What would she think of Hillary Clinton today, even closer today to the office of president than she was in the 2008 election? Hillary definitely doesn’t meet Lizzie’s ideals for a woman—but those were also based around the 1890s standards. Would she be able to accept a woman’s more pronounced role as it is today and deny it all and push things back into the past?
In 2016, for the past two elections, the US has finally had its first viable bids for a female president. However, women have been running consistently since the 1970s. But these women weren’t the first to run either. Lizzie Kander’s speech came six years after Victoria Woodhull ran for president—and almost 50 years before women’s suffrage!
This portrait of Kander is located in Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
The full text of this speech is available in the archives of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; you read it here>>
Wow! I have just completed my first year at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the time has flown by…..So many wonderful people…, staff, board, volunteers, visitors, donors and other new friends have made my transition a joy. As I reflect on the last year a few key themes keep reoccurring in my thoughts and I thought I would share them with you.
Conversations start here. As staff, board and community volunteers brainstormed what the JMM tagline should be we kept coming back to the realization that the museum excels at taking Jewish history and making it relevant to a myriad of constituents by finding key threads, themes and stories to investigate, contemplate and expand upon. As I thought even further about the tagline, I realized…this is why I wanted to work at JMM! It is a place where intellectual curiosity and exploration are encouraged, where stories of the past lend themselves to lessons for today and where diversity of experiences and opinions find a home.
• 1942. New York. Collier’s January 17, 1942, Madness [Nazi Propaganda] original work. Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, CA www.szyk.org
This past year JMM explored many timely and relevant themes through its exhibits, programs, and ensuing discussions. Topics included the
politics of Argentina, the entrance ways for minorities and women into the social fabric of the United States, the use of propaganda to sway public opinion then and now, the power of political cartoons, and much, much more. Over 2000 school children visited JMM this past year. They learned about immigration, community and beliefs, intolerance, and Israel. Some were Jewish, most were not. All of them came away with a new found knowledge.
Your personal story is JMM’s history. Important stories are told through the donations to the JMM archives and curated by the museum. The story of the Strnad family is probably the most well-known personal story that the museum has had the privilege to tell. For those who don’t know it, Paul Strnad wrote to his cousin Alvin in Milwaukee seeking asylum for he and his wife Hedy, a talented dress designer from Prague during the Nazi occupation. The Strnads did not survive the Holocaust, but Hedy’s dress designs did. As a testament to Hedy, and as a reminder of all the talent lost, JMM with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s costume shop created her elegant designs and with it a sobering reminder of the consequences of what should never have been and what must not ever happen again. JMM began travelling Stitching History From the Holocaust this past year. It opened in New York City in April and travels on to Madison, WI in September and Miami Beach in January.
There are hundreds of other stories the museum tells. A high school classmate of mine called not long after I had started to tell me his grandparents were in a largescale photo in the making a living section of the permanent exhibit and showed me them in his next visit. A good friend toured the museum for the first time this year, turned a corner and was surprised to see her life size father as a youngster in his basketball uniform! Countless visitors have pointed out their family and friends in graduation, bar and bat mitzvah, and wedding photos. Locally gifted artifacts tell the important stories of immigration, the Holocaust, intolerance, Tikkun Olam, community and beliefs and so much more. Your memories tell stories for future generations.
Boundless enthusiasm creates amazing results. JMM staff LOVE their jobs and tackle big projects with gusto. The temporary exhibit schedule ensures there is always something to learn and contemplate at JMM. From Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, to the Jews of Argentina – from Arthur Szyk the Art of Illumination to the current Project Mah Jongg exhibit there is always something that will spark your imagination or urge you to learn more. Staff works diligently to make sure the quality of the exhibits and the 40+ annual programs offer the public an opportunity learn, grow and appreciate.
The Museum also planned and executed a Plein Air event with its Milwaukee Museum Mile partners, held Milwaukee Museum Mile day, opened its doors to hundreds for Open Doors Milwaukee, held a fabulous opening tailgate party in the back parking lot, is offering Mah Jongg play, lessons and a tournament this summer, toured over 2000 school children, held monthly programs for people with memory loss, and well…. whew!
JMM plays well with others-The museum is a place of real collaboration and believes in the power of partnerships. This year the museum partnered with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center for a program on the Eichmann trial, a program on propaganda in art, and providing educational content to over 1500 children. The partnership with the Milwaukee Repertory for Stitching History resulted in a History in Progress award from the American Association for State and Local History and the Governor’s Archive Award. JMM’s partner MPTV Arts page won an Emmy for it video on the making of Stitching History. The Education department has meaningful partnerships with SHARP literacy, Arts@Large and other groups. JMM is also an active member of the Milwaukee Museum Mile and the Council of American Jewish Museums
This is a community of caring individuals. This is a caring community that supports the museum in so many ways. There are 650 loyal members, 20 exceptional docents, 27 involved board members, dozens of committed community volunteers who work in the archives and on exhibit/programming committees, talented interns, 3 dozen legacy participants, an amazing staff and loyal donors and foundations. Through their generosity of time, talent and funds they ensure that the museum is a place open to all and encourages important, relevant conversations to happen.
The museum has a lot of exciting exhibits and programs in store for the coming year. After Project Mah Jong,Once & Again, Still Lifes with Beth Lipman opens in September. Sheboygan-Falls artist Beth Lipman is nationally recognized for her glass sculptures that recreate the bounty of Renaissance and Baroque still-life paintings offers a modern perspective on timeless issues like mortality, consumerism, materiality, and temporality. JMM plans a celebration of greater Milwaukee talent, a tour of “makers”, an exploration of Lipman’s work and more.
Fabric of Survival opens in February of 2017. Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz used art and personal narrative to recognize individual courage and resilience, and to foster understanding and compassion for those who experience injustice. Her 30 hauntingly beautiful original fabric compositions detail her life before, during and after World War II. Related programing will engage audiences in conversations about injustice, memory, and the power of art.
The summer of 2017 is still being planned. But I can say if you know and love Milwaukee, have an affectionate penchant for the quirkiness of humankind, and appreciate artistic talent, this will be an exhibit you will want to explore with friends and family.
Bringing three to four special exhibits, upkeep of the permanent exhibit implementing, over 40 programs per year and preservation of the archives is not only exhilarating and a joy, but expensive. Each temporary exhibit is subsidized through fundraising efforts so that prices for admission, school tours and programs are affordable for all. So, please, if you value the conversations and programs at JMM and can help keep the museum affordable to all a gift of any amount is welcome.
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH CRACKS, BAMS AND FLOWERS
By: Donna Neubauer
Throughout the summer in honor of the exhibit Project Mah Jongg, Jewish Museum Milwaukee will be posting local mah jongg memories. We are thrilled to kick off this series with JMM docent Donna Neubauer’s reflections on her Mahj Memories.
Sheila Eglash Donna Neubauer, Renee Weinshal and Gerri Boym meet for their weekly game
My love affair with Mahj Jongg began in 1957. In my senior year of high school three of my friends and I decided to start a Mahj Jongg club. After all wasn’t it part of our Jewish DNA?. We should be naturals at this complex game.
First we need a set.
“Barbara’s mother has one and so does my mother,” said Judy.
“My mother has one permanently set up in our living room,” I replied.
Okay, that issue was settled. The next week we met at Barbara’s house after school. We had no idea what we were doing and a Mahj Jongg card was even necessary. We just made up a combination of hands that made sense to us. That year the seed was planted, but never had the opportunity to blossom. Our Mahj club disbanded within two months.
I don’t remember ever taking a lesson to learn the game of Mahj Jongg. I just played. When I was a stay at home mom with a new baby, my girlfriends and I had pick up games. With a phone call in the morning the game was created. We decided where we would play that day, packed up our babies and all their necessary items, and played Mahj Jongg until the babies got fussy. We played Mahj Jongg while the babies sat and cooed in their infant seats. We stopped to feed the babies and ourselves and put them back in the crib to nap once again. Sometimes we had three infants in a crib all sound asleep.
I also played Mahj in the evening when Bob wasn’t working so he could baby-sit our little ones. We alternated homes and stopped at about 10:00 p.m for cake and coffee. After the short break we continued our mahj game until about midnight. During those years we played under a haze of smoke from our cigarettes. Today our TV tables hold nosheri, then they held stubs of crushed cigarettes and piles of ashes which had to be emptied periodically during the evening. We sometimes talked and laughed more than we played. We shared with each other our hopes, dreams and sorrows, we exchanged new recipes and shared the latest parenting skills.
When the children attended school full time, I was able to play during the day several times a week with Cyril, Toni, and Clara. We brought our lunch in a brown paper bag to the hostess’s home. She provided the coffee. We dropped our kids off at school at 9:00 a.m. played until lunch time when we brought out our sandwiches, and between bites continued our fast paced game. We stopped at 3:30 p.m when we left to pick up our kids at school. I loved that game which disbanded when Toni moved to Minneapolis and Cyril moved to Denver.
Today I play Mahj three times a week. Each group I have been part of has brought beautiful memories I still hold dear to my heart. Playing Mahj jong has given me friendships I would have never had if it had not been for that obsessively, addictive game. The Mahj Jongg card has changed yearly but the friendships and memories continue to remain.
Instead of meeting at private homes, we have the luxury of dining out in local restaurants that encourage us to remain and play Mahj. Today we share with each other the results of our latest medical tests, complaints about our aches and pains and our concerns in respect to our husband’s health. We don’t bring babies, but myriads of pictures of grown children, stories and accomplishments of our brilliant grandchildren and for some, anecdotes about their great grandchildren.
My friend Natalie and I are planning to go to the Greenfield Institute in Madison, Wisconsin in July. When we were at our weekly mahj game she asked, “Are you bringing your Mahj set Donna?.”
“Of course I am.” I replied.
So if you see two ladies waiting for a third and fourth player for Mahj Jongg please join us, we need you. Bring your Mahj Jongg card and of course money. We’ll provide the munchies.
Isn’t it wonderful that somethings never change.
Come learn more about the game of Mah Jongg at Jewish Museum Milwaukee. The exhibit is open through August 28, 2016. #MahJonggAllSummerLong
When it was time to pick a project for my Bar Mitzvah, my Mom and I talked about ideas and I knew that I wanted to do something different. In fact, when she asked me what I was going to do, I thought to myself “am I going to have to collect underwear?” Not that collecting donations isn’t a valuable project, but I just wanted to do something different. Because I really like history, my Mom talked to Ellie Gettinger at the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee and asked if there was something for me to do at the Museum. When my Mom told me that the museum would allow me to volunteer in their archives, I was shocked. I said….”the archives? That’s like the Area 51 of Jewish Milwaukee!” I was really excited.
When I first arrived at the archives I looked around a bit and realized that I was right, this place is the Area 51 of Jewish Milwaukee. I mean, they have everything there, stuff not a lot of people know about….. I got to take a tour of the archives and see all sorts of really neat stuff. It was really exciting.
Because I like history so much, for my project, I got to read through some old WWII letters written by Jewish soldiers with a connection to Milwaukee. The museum needed help typing some of the hand-written letters so they could reference them later.
Jay Hyland, of the archives, randomly gave me the file on a soldier named Leonard LeVine, a Major in the Army Air Corps, and I never really moved on from him. Leonard was from Milwaukee and even went to Whitefish Bay High School, the same High School that I will attend. This intrigued me even more. Jay also found an old article about Leonard’s parents’ house in Whitefish Bay. On the way home that day I made my Mom drive by his old house. This house is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. All this only made me wonder more about Leonard’s life after the WWII letters. From the letters, I knew that his family had owned Rosenberg’s department store in Milwaukee – Leonard would sometimes talk about business and sales in his letters to his parents. He also talked about getting private tailor to make his military uniform for him with the budget from the military instead of ordering it through the army. He knew business well and I guess fashion too.
Well, then I started googling him. I soon realized Leonard grew up to be a very successful man. I found that he died on December 22, 2008, he was 91 years old, and was buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery, also right here in Milwaukee, and also another reason to hop in the car and go find his grave. My googling also found that when he died he gave $7.6 million to the Milwaukee Art Museum, which was their biggest donation ever.
Leonard wrote a lot about not having any spare time in the service, most letters started with him saying that he only had a few minutes, but he always wrote. He regularly wrote his parents about how and what he was doing and where he might be transferred next. In one letter, he talks about getting into the officer candidate school, after I put the letter back in the stack, I noticed that a few letters down in the stack a return address was peeking out and it was from the school he wanted, I was excited to see that he got into the school and of course couldn’t wait to read more. I almost never wanted to leave when my time was up.
I feel really lucky to be able to see into Leonard’s life and am thankful to him for his military service and for his contributions to Milwaukee. They say that a Mitzvah project can be my way of saying “thank you” for my blessings in a real way. In the end, I typed and scanned all of Leonard’s letters which probably helped the museum only a little, but I got to “know” a really cool man and part of Jewish history and for that I thank the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
Honor that special Mahj player in your life or offer your own show of support with a Project Mah Jonng Sponsor Tile that will be beautifully displayed on a large tiered rack in the JMM Atrium Game Gallery for the complete run of the exhibit. These tiles are of varying sizes ranging from 3.5” x 4.75” to 14” x 17” and will be personalized with a name.Tiles purchased at the $150 level or higher also come with a brief tribute message option. All sponsorships come with incentives that increase with each level and include perks such as free admission to the June 2nd Preview Event, free museum and program admission, a 1-year JMM membership, and free group play sessions in the designated atrium game gallery. Consider honoring mothers, grandmothers, friends and/or the person who taught you to play the game you love. Purchase your tile today!
I began interning at Jewish Museum Milwaukee a month ago, and last week, I took my first guided tour with a group of students from Rufus King Middle School. We first toured the visiting exhibit, which consisted of beautiful drawings by the late Arthur Szyk, where Ellie Gettinger guided the group.
Ellie gravitated toward a set of drawings, one original drawing created by Szyk and a reproduction of the same piece from the January 17, 1942 issue of Collier’s Magazine. The students examined the pictures for differences and immediately noticed there were two figures missing in the lower right-hand corner of the cover. Ellie had no definitive answer to why these men were removed and presented two possible answers: (1) the Collier’s staff was averse to keeping the two unnamed figures on the cover, and (2) Collier’s needed a section for copy.
• 1942. New York. Collier’s January 17, 1942, Madness [Nazi Propaganda] original work. Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, CA www.szyk.org
The second answer could be the reason, but that age old question of “why?” popped into my head. I decided to study and inspect the source material and the Collier’s Magazine cover.
Upon closer inspection of the two figures, I concluded that the figures must be Philippe Pétain, the Head of State of France’s puppet government in Vichy during World War Two. The two aspects of this figure that allowed us to discern Pétain were the bushy mustache as well as the French Kepi, a military head cover that Pétain commonly wore.
The other figure next to Pétain appeared to be Benito Mussolini, also known as “Il Duce” (The Duke) who was the dictator of Fascist Italy from 1922-1943 and ally of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan through the Tripartite Pact. What led me to believe this figure represented Mussolini was that the figure donned a black military uniform. Persons within the Italian Fascist movement wore black military uniforms that lent them the nickname “black shirts” which was later coöpted by the Nazi Sturmabteilung, or “SA”, with their adoption of brown uniforms which lent the nickname the “brown shirts.”
Another element of the figure that led to the conclusion of Benito Mussolini was the helmet/hat donned by the figure that depicted a perched eagle clutching a Fasces, the symbol for Italian Fascism. If one were to look at other examples of Arthur Szyk’s drawings depicting Benito Mussolini, one recognized the same helmet/hat emblazoned with the same symbol.
Despite these conclusions deduced with the pictorial and historical evidence, the question remained, “Why were these figures eliminated for the Collier’s cover?” We know that Szyk completed the drawing in September 1941, which was prior to the United States entering the war. At this time, the Italian military suffered embarrassing defeats in East Africa and North Africa against the British forces, and they failed to conquer Greece in Spring 1941. Because of these failures, Hitler sent German soldiers to North Africa and Greece to defeat and re-conquer the territory the Italians failed to gain and hold. In my subjective view, these defeats lowered the prestige of Benito Mussolini to that of marionette to Hitler as puppet master, which was of a similar status of Pétain at this time. One could argue that other nominal figures of conquered European nations at this time could also have been depicted, including Vidkun Quisling of Norway, however, his name along with other puppet leaders possibly did fulfill Arthur Szyk’s artistic vision with the more well-known Mussolini and Pétain.
On the other hand, did the Collier’s staff eliminate these figures to leave space for their headline “DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT”? With the inclusion of this and the elimination of those two figures, the Collier’s cover solely depicted the bedrock Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goring, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler. The addition of the figures offered a less fixed message against “Dictators” as seen in Arthur Szyks drawing. It may have been easier for subscribers of Collier’s to fix on a single regime as the “enemy” of United States as opposed to the possibility of having multiple enemies.
The final item that I researched was the diplomatic relationship between the United States government and Vichy France. I learned the United States government recognized and practiced diplomatic communications with Vichy France from 1940-1942. Because of the tenuous situation in Europe and the United States’ declaration of war on the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan) when this Collier’s issue was released, I believe the Collier’s staff decided to eliminate Pétain as a means to not criticize Vichy France while the United States maintained diplomatic with them. With the elimination of Pétain, the Benito Mussolini figure had to be removed as well or else face questions of why the Benito Mussolini figure was contorted in an unusual position in relation to the rest of the drawing.
However, we will perhaps never know the true reason for the elimination of Pétain and Mussolini for the Collier’s cover, but it offered the opportunity for this viewer to ask “why?”
I am sitting at LaGuardia reflecting on the past two whirlwind days. I am flying back after the opening of Stitching History From the Holocaust and completely overwhelmed by the experience. Walking into the gallery at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was bowled over the staging of the exhibit and seeing Hedy Strnad’s eight dresses staged in their beautiful space. I couldn’t let the experience go without reflecting on what this means for Jewish Museum Milwaukee and for me personally.
JMM is a small museum that opened roughly eight years ago. The materials that were donated by the Strnad family in 1998 before the Museum was a glimmer in founding director’s Kathie Bernstein’s eye. We brought new life to these materials–eight dress designs, one letter, two envelopes, and one picture–as they became part of JMM’s permanent exhibit. They are central to the story we tell and visitors were impacted by the elements of the story that we presented.
As we proceeded to research and curate this larger exhibit, many people were pulled into the orbit of this exhibit. The Strnad family, the team from the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Costume Shop, researchers and humanities scholars in Milwaukee, Prague, the producers and talent at The Arts Page, which airs on Milwaukee Public Television, students, docents, visitors–all became part of the cult of Hedy. They were pulled into the idea of giving this woman, this couple, this family back some part of the legacy that was taken from them. When the exhibit was in Milwaukee, we reached thousands of people. National publicity, including an article by Samuel Freedman in the New York Times and a piece on PBS Newshour Weekend, created a buzz and we received so many inquiries about whether visitors would be able to see this exhibit elsewhere.
All of this energy followed me on my trip to open Stitching History in New York. The audience in New York expands the reach of this story considerably. The curation and design in New York is just lovely, adding elements to the exhibit that enliven the story–I love the addition of Hedy’s Signature to the wall and the ingenious way in which they MJH team made the fabrics accessible to touch. More than this, the position of the Museum of Jewish Heritage overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, offer yet another narrative ark to the story. Here we see Hedy’s beautiful dresses in the shadow of icons of American immigration.
This is yet another beginning for this exhibit, another chance to induct more people into Hedy’s sway. And it is start of a broader national conversation in which people all over the country will have the opportunity to be part of this story. At the end of the opening event, one patron came up to me and said, “I am taking Hedy with me.” She thanked me and this Museum for sharing her story. We hope that so many more will come away with this feeling.
1936. Lodz. The Szyk Haggadah, The Family at the Seder.
The Szyk Haggadah Reminds Us of Struggles Past and Present
By Molly Dubin, Jewish Museum Milwaukee Curator
Passover and politics. It seems rather fitting that as we find ourselves entrenched in the political campaign season, navigating the obstacle course of platforms, promises and pundits vying for prime real estate in our psyches, the holiday of Passover is just around the corner.
Passover – the commemoration of Hebrew slaves being released from bondage in Egypt and founding their own nation – is the quintessential story of the pursuit of freedom. So while feeling inundated by ads and pulled in a multitude of directions can feel frustrating and daunting, in deference to our Jewish ancestors and all people of diverse backgrounds who have and continue to fight for the right to their convictions, it’s crucial to remember that the ability to live and practice one’s beliefs freely and the freedom to choose what those beliefs are, is something that should never be taken for granted.
Born and raised in Eastern Europe, Arthur Szyk witnessed the persecution of his fellow Jews and felt a responsibility to use his artistic talents to oppose injustice and provide them with a means of hope as the Nazi regime was rising to power. In 1933 Szyk created his now world renowned Haggadah. The Haggadah guides the set order of the Seder feast, a meal centered on symbolic foods which represents and recalls the Israelites exodus from ancient Egypt. The rich, detailed illustrations which comprise ‘The Szyk Haggadah’ are symbolic as well. The artist- activist infused the traditional Haggadah framework with powerful visual commentary on the theme of the universal struggle for human freedom.
Many works from ‘The Szyk Haggadah’ and several versions of the celebrated publication are on display as part of the original exhibit, Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination. This distinguished and exquisitely rendered book serves not only as a reminder of past struggles, but also of those we continue to grapple with today and the importance of fighting for justice and freedom for all.
Today you may be expecting to see something funny or unexpected, it is April Fool’s Day after all. But I want to mark another celebration on this day. Today is the 115th anniversary of the publication of The Settlement Cook Book. This is an artifact that just keeps coming up–we hosted a successful program with the Wisconsin 101 project, in which we detailed the cookbook’s impact on state and national culture. I was interviewed recently by a national source to talk about the book and its Jewish content and next week I am giving a presentation about it at a local senior center. I won’t say that it gets the most attention, but it is certainly one of our most central stories. I have had visitors from everywhere–Atlanta to Ashwaubenon (one of my favorite Wisconsin town names), Jewish and non-Jewish–who relate to this cookbook and tell me their stories of growing up with it.
The cookbook appeared in numerous editions, but here is the story of the first. Lizzie Kander, leader extraordinaire of the Settlement House, goes to her board of directors, all men that she had recruited to be part of this endeavor to ask for $18 (roughly $500 today) to publish a cookbook. While the men signed on to Lizzie’s mission to acculturate new immigrants, they did not really see the practical application of a cookbook. Most of these men had cooks and I would venture that none of them had ever made anything in a kitchen. She went to her friend and publisher Merton Yewdale, who agreed to help her find advertising. They sold their product at the Boston Store and gave the first twenty to her students. This is the beginning of an icon…it became nationally known and famously James Beard said, “If I consult a cookbook at all, it is likely to be by one of these sensible flat-heeled authors like the famous Mrs. Kander.” That first edition raised over $500–more than $13,000 by today’s standards.
Below are two of my favorite icons from Settlement Cook Books–the formal table setting and some of the early ads that made it possible. Perhaps you can celebrate Settlement Cook Book Day as I like to call it, by using just as much cutlery as the illustration below shows!
Purim, one of the most popular Jewish holidays, will begin at sunset on March 23rd.The holiday brings gifts of food, dressing up in costume, and fun-filled carnivals, this is an opportunity to party like rock stars!
But while cutting loose and getting a bit crazy are hallmarks of the holiday, the main attraction is the reading of the Megillah, or the scroll of Esther, which recounts the story of Purim. All the elements of a good story are present: a Persian king finding an unlikely new queen in a Jewish commoner named Esther who hides her Jewish identity, a power hungry villain named Haman with a murderous plot to destroy the Jews of Persia, and an act of courage that ultimately wins out to save the day.
Families participate in synagogue readings by shaking noise makers, or groggers, and booing at the mention of Haman’s name and cheering enthusiastically for Esther’s. Countering these playful parts of the holiday is the knowledge of an alternatively grave outcome if not for a steadfast belief in freedom of religious practice and the need to stand by one’s convictions.
Artist-activist Arthur Szyk dedicated his career to standing up against injustice and defending universal freedom, so it is fitting that he chose to illustrate the ‘Book of Esther’. In a provocative piece showing Haman hanging from the gallows meant for the Jews, Szyk inserts himself into the Purim story. He documents the victory of the Jewish people while looking to Haman with a ‘justice has been served’ glare. In a bold move, Szyk draws multiple swastikas on Haman’s clothing equating the villain and his evil plot with the Nazi persecution of European Jews throughout World War II.
The ‘Book of Esther’ is an extraordinary example of how Arthur Szyk bravely used his art to preserve Jewish heritage and fight persecution and prejudice, so while you or your child may be enjoying your Hamantaschen pastries (you can find Szyk enjoying this treat in this picture) dressed as Elsa or Batman, take a moment to give a shout out to the super hero that was Arthur Szyk! When #SzykHappens, Justice Prevails.
* Many communities and synagogues perform plays or satires that are known as Purim Shpiels or Shtick.
By: Ellie Gettinger, Education Director
As we near the end of Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to explore our current exhibit, Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination, within the context of civil rights. Szyk was born in Poland in 1894 and he moved to the United States in 1940 to try and get the United States to join the war against the Nazis. He loved the US and in particular felt passionately about American civil liberties, our freedoms of religion and speech were the best possible ways for Jewish people to be treated well. In 1948, he became a citizen, but he never saw his adoration of American values as a rubber stamp for everything going on here. He was especially sensitive to the plight of African Americans in this country and used his art as a way of exploring the black experience. In 1942, when asked what he planned on doing after World War II ended, Szyk responded, “Only time will tell what my new mission will be, it may be complete Negro enfranchisement and social equality. Who knows? That is a subject dear to my heart.”
We highlight several of his cartoons that explore Civil Rights in the 1940’s, including a piece in which a
decorated soldier is bound by two Ku Klux Klan members. The heading says, “Oh Lord do not forgive them, for they know what they do” and the piece is captioned by saying that every lynching is a detriment to American democracy. He also embedded African Americans into his American pieces to highlight their centrality in US history.
Courtesy of the Arthur Szyk Society
Szyk died in 1951, before the central battles of the Civil Rights Movement started. I would have loved to see how he took on the forces at play in Montgomery, Little Rock, and Birmingham in the 1950’s. He was ahead of his time and perhaps his status as an outsider made it easier for him to see the racial divide. We feel privileged to celebrate this pioneer and can only hope that one day his vision of African American, White and Jewish is fully realized.
By: Patti Sherman-Cisler,
Executive Director, Jewish Museum Milwaukee
This editorial appeared in the February 2016 edition of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.
The Jewish Museum Milwaukee will present the work of mid-20th century artist and activist Arthur Szyk, (pronounced “Shik”), through the originally curated exhibit, Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination, which will be on display from February 7 to May 15. Szyk’s work has enjoyed a renaissance and has been displayed at museums throughout the United States and Poland. The exhibit’s four thematic pillars are Art as Propaganda, Democracy/Freedom, Civil Rights, and Zionism/the State of Israel. The diverse accompanying programs will allow the public in-depth opportunities to engage in these timeless and timely ideas.
Szyk, a Polish Jew who immigrated to the United States in 1940, personally experienced the Nazi persecution against the Jewish people. In response to world events, Syzk created meticulous and fiercely morale caricatures of the WWII Axis powers in his political cartoons, depicting them as hate-filled mad men. His graphic images appeared on the covers of the major magazines including Life, Colliers and Time. His work had a common theme according to Irvin Ungar, the foremost scholar and co-curator of the exhibit, “Freedom, not tyranny; justice, not oppression – which, when combined with the uniqueness of his style, is why Szyk became one of the leading political cartoonists of the first half of the 20th century.”
His poignant, profound and often provocative images were instrumental in swaying public opinion toward entering World War II. Indeed Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed him his “soldier in art”. Eleanor Roosevelt in describing Szyk’s work said “This is a personal war of Szyk against Hitler, and I do not think that Mr. Szyk will lose this war!”
The banner on the front of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee depicts the Collier’s cover from January 1942 with the noted Szyk work Madness. In this anti-Axis drawing, Hitler, Goring, Goebbels and Himmler are shown plotting world domination, while the Minister of Propaganda hands out Nazi flags. The words “Don’t Believe a Word of It” are printed at the bottom and refer to the Nazi propaganda machine, which was bent on convincing Americans that the Nazis were not intent on global domination. Szyk fought this claim through his searing imagery, pushing the American public to think critically.
These messages of understanding the source and being accurately informed resonate today. Current sweeping rhetoric about Muslims, Syrians, and Hispanics are eerily reminiscent of the propaganda against Jews in Szyk’s time. As we ponder the words “never again” Szyk’s work provides a jumping off point for reflecting on important events and for discussing essential topics such as the use of propaganda both historically and today, how images sway people’s ideas, and how art can be used as a vehicle for social justice. JMM will offer in-depth programs to engage these ideas and we hope the community will join us in these discussions.
When the Democratic candidates for president face-off tomorrow in the Helen Bader Concert Hall in the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, we are fairly certain that this is the first time a debate will take place in a former synagogue. (If anyone can counter this, we are excited to have that information!) Until the end of the 20th Century, this building held Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, the oldest synagogue in Milwaukee. The congregation was founded in 1856 and saw several mergers and splits in the following century.
This building was constructed in 1922 and was a central part of Jewish Milwaukee for decades. The interior was noted for its fourteen stained glass windows that were designed by the longstanding rabbi of the congregation, Joseph L. Baron. He incorporated Jewish values and ideals into these windows and that is the single remnant that remains within the debate space of its proud synagogue tradition. The themes of the windows are (try and keep an eye out for them on the PBS telecast tomorrow!):
Baron explained the twelfth window in the following terms:
The greatest adventure of the modern age is the building of the New World. This is brought out in the twelfth window which has for its pictured emblem the familiar Liberty Bell, suggesting the time when the ancient proclamation of Leviticus resounded from one end of the earth to the other. It is of particular significance to us, American Jews, mindful as we are of the great moral and material contributions which the Jew has brought to America from the days of its earliest pioneers to the present, and the bountiful blessings which America has in turn bestowed upon the Jew. Beneath the emblem is the word which links the Hebrew Scriptures with the spirit of America, deror, “liberty.”
We hope the candidates recognize the importance of minority contributions to this country and understand the unique history of the location in which they are debating.
In researching and developing Southern Exposure: The Jews of Argentina, one of the stories that really stuck with me was that of Adolph Eichmann and his presence in Argentina. Following World War II, Juan Peron, who had been sympathetic to the fascist governments in Europe, re-opened immigration to Argentina. This meant that Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were able to find a haven at a time when there were limited options for them and it also meant that their tormentors, Nazi war criminals, were able to immigrate to Argentina as well. For Peron, he saw this as a way of building the Argentine economy, as German industry was relocated to Argentina wholesale.
One of the people who entered was Adolf Eichmann, notable as the architect of the Final Solution.
Eichmann lived a quiet life in Argentina, under an assumed name. He had covered his tracks fully, going so far as removing an incriminating identifying markers to maintain anonymity in his adopted country. Despite his care in protecting his identity, one of his son’s boasted to a girl that he was dating about his father’s “accomplishments” during World War II. This girl happened to be Jewish and by reporting this to her family, she set into place an enormous Israeli sting operation to ensure that A) this was indeed Adolf Eichmann and B) they could remove him from the country to stand trial in Israel.
As part of our partnership with the Nathan & Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center and with funding from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, we are delighted to explore this complex story on Sunday, January 3 at 4:00 PM with Dr. Shay Pilnik, director of the Holocaust Resource Center, and Dr. Yannay Spitzer. Dr. Spitzer is the grandson of one of the judges who tried Eichmann in Israel. This will be a unique and powerful program that develops our understanding of the climate in Argentina and the impact in Israel of this watershed event.
In thinking about Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, I always consider how the warmth and light of our hanukiahs brighten the cold and drab December days. As the days at this time of year get shorter and shorter with night falling progressively earlier, we add a candle each night, making it that much brighter. And yet, consider how this changes if instead of being in the midst of the dark winter, you are leading into the Summer solstice. I had never considered how the difference in season would change the celebration until I was sitting in class last night and my professor point out the seasonal difference in Argentina.
So I am asking you to imagine, Chanukah in shorts and sandals; candle lighting either during the daylight hours or waiting till 9:00 PM to light after sunset; being on summer vacation during Chanukah, meaning that it doesn’t reach the same frenzied level of insanity in which my kid has come home with a ton of Chanukah related activities and songs. In thinking about this seasonal shift, from winter to summer, I was totally flabbergasted…and it gave me a totally new and different sense of the holiday. I have learned something totally new about the experience of Diaspora–my framework for the Jewish experience was limited to the Northern Hemisphere.
Come check out “Southern Exposure: The Jews of Argentina” to learn more about the Jewish practice and life of Argentine Jews… and remember, we will be open on Christmas Day (screening Evita)!
This piece came to us from one of our allies in the community, teacher extraordinaire Kelly O’Keefe Boettcher. Kelly learned about the museum when she staffed the Ulster Project and has continued to connect us with her school, Rufus King High School. Learn why she thinks you should get on the bus, both as funders and for teachers!
Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of field trips. The bus is always late and someone inevitably forgets to bring a lunch; having said that, after 17 years in the classroom, my only repeat excursion has been to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. Without fail, every time I take a group of students to the JMM, we spend the next few days if not weeks referencing the conversations we had and the learning we shared.
Scheduling a field trip to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee will be a collaborative process. JMM staff will partner with you to guarantee a workshop or a program that is specific and unique to you and your learners. Whether you are looking for an established curriculum or the opportunity to generate something new, JMM staff will guide you every step of the way. A field trip to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee is worth your time and your students will remember it long after class is dismissed.
Passengers on a steam ship in the ’30s struggle with their tangled relations and the rise of Nazism. Dir: Stanley Kramer Cast: Vivian Leigh, Simone Signoret, Lee Marvin, Oskar Werner, Michael Dunn. BW-150 min
Stitching History From the Holocaust, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s originally curated exhibition, about Hedy and Paul Strnad and the loss of their talent due to the Holocaust continues to make news and receive accolades. The Museum received the prestigious History in Progress (HIP) Award from the American Association of State and Local History, one of three projects recognized nationally. The HIP Award is given at the discretion of the awards committee to those applying for the Award of Merit. It is for a project that is highly inspirational, exhibits exceptional scholarship, and/or is exceedingly entrepreneurial in terms of funding, partnerships, or collaborations, creative problem solving, or unusual project design and inclusiveness. We are thrilled that this exhibit met this high mark.
The Milwaukee Public Television-produced special about the making of Stitching History From the Holocaust has received some notable honors. You can see it here:
The video was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement for Arts/Entertainment Programming – Program/Special/Series. The award winner will be announced on November 7. In addition, the episode came in first place for “Best Specialty Programming” from the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. MPTV also received a Bronze Telly Award for “Film/Video – TV Programs, Segments, or Promotional Pieces – Cultural”. The Telly Awards honors film and video productions, groundbreaking web commercials, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs. The 35th Annual Telly Awards received over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. We are so proud of this partnership and our colleagues at Milwaukee Public Television for expanding this story.
The exhibit itself will start traveling this spring. It will open at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York in April 2016. This museum will be an especially poignant site for the exhibit, as it overlooks Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty—two of the landmarks of American immigration, from which Paul and Hedy Strnad were denied entry. The exhibit will then move to the School of Human Ecology in at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in September of 2016 and then to the Jewish Museum of Florida at Florida International University in Miami Beach, Florida.
We are saddened by the loss of the Jewish Museum’s Milwaukee President Barbie Blutstein. Barbie unexpectedly passed away on September 28. She was knowledgeable, vivacious, positive, and a natural connector of people and ideas. Barbie’s natural inclination toward inclusiveness, her passion for the Jewish Museum, her belief in people and her boundless energy was a source for inspiration for those who worked with her and were touched by her kindness.
Barbie was instrumental in so many ways. From mentor, to idea generator, to natural connector she impacted the mission of the Museum immeasurably. She secured important donations for the archives, identified people to serve on committees, introduced new audiences to Museum programs, suggested exhibitions and programs, met with stakeholders, connected people, served as a sounding board for staff, and so much more.
Her community history and memory were essential to the Museum. After the merger of Brynwood Country Club and the Wisconsin Club, Barbie found out that Brynwood was throwing out the old pictures and memorabilia. She grabbed the Museum’s archivist, Jay Hyland, and picked up these items, which became the basis of the exhibit, “Exclusionary Measures: Mount Sinai Hospital and Brynwood Country Club.” She and I had the opportunity to talk about the exhibit on Milwaukee Public Television’s I Remember Milwaukee. Her verve comes through this interview and it was so exciting to hear her explain her experience with both organizations.
As we mourn Barbie – the Museum’s president, committed volunteer, cheerleader, advocate and friend – we will miss most her warmth and care. May her memory be a blessing.
Throughout the event, we will have Argentinian wines and desserts for guests to taste and sample:
Eli Montero:This wine is a Chardonnay and is from the region of Cuyo, specifically Mendoza, of Argentina. Malbec:According to vivino.com, “Extremely popular, Argentinian Malbec is an inky, medium-bodied, dry red wine with strong impressions of dark fruits on the nose and palate. This wine tends to have mellower tannins than its French counterpart. Heavily dependent on where they are grown for variations in flavor, Argentinian Malbec has quickly become a world favorite due to the characteristics that the high altitude climate and soils impart to the fruit.” Alfajor Cookies:According to the Huffington Post, “Alfajores Are The Best Cookie You’ve Never Heard Of”. Continued, “There’s a reason this simple cookie defines the cafe scene in Buenos Aires and has entire cafes devoted to it all across Latin America. It’s maybe the best cookie that ever was. We suspect it might be because of the long path it has journeyed — each step getting it a little bit closer to the perfection it has achieved today.” Churros: Basically, fried dough. Enough said. Dolce de Leche:This sweet confection is a mixture of milk and sugar that is heated, almost like a caramel-like substance. “Dolce de Leche” translated means “candy of milk”. Yumm! Assorted Sweets:We all love these 🙂 Fresh Fruit:We love these too! Coffee:Coffee.
Before I begin, let me say I know very little about the tango. In fact, I’ve only had one encounter with the dance in my 22 years. The tango originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 1800s, and is now a common ballroom dance all over the world that brings together a variety of cultural rhythms. The tango is a very upbeat, passionate dance that captures the emotion of an entire room. Naomi Hotta, a professional tango dancer in Los Angeles, interprets the tango like this: “tango contains highly addictive ingredients, such as pain, pleasure, passion, excitement, connection, freedom, torment, and bliss. In seven out of ten cases it takes over a person’s life”.
Now that we know a little bit about the Tango, let me explain to you my one connection with the dance. I play the violin, and was in my High School’s orchestra. My Junior year we played “Por Una Cabeza”, which is a Tango that refers to a horse winning a race by the length of one head. As we learned the song, I felt like I was actually a part of the dance, as if I was actually dancing. But believe me, you don’t wanna see me dance! We performed this piece as part of our holiday performance and it was a huge hit. The piece is a blast to play, and the dance certainly captivates an audience. Below is a brief clip of the song and dance from the 2008 movie Easy Virtue:
So why are we talking about the tango? Well, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee has a new exhibit coming soon! We are proud to display our upcoming exhibit, Southern Exposure: The Jews of Argentina. The exhibit opens to the public on Sunday, October 4, and will feature tours of the exhibit and family activities, such as scavenger hunts and art projects, and community member, local businessman and native Argentinean, Jose Sectzer, will lead a Tango Karaoke Sing-A-Long session at 2:00 pm with dynamic dance accompaniment by local Tango expert, Luz Sosa.
By: Ellie Gettinger,
Education Director, Jewish Museum Milwaukee
As we reach the end of each exhibit, I find myself mourning it a little. For 3 to 4 months, I am inundated with that topic and there are always so many wonderful connections to be built between our permanent exhibit and the changing, and in developing ideas that I would never have the opportunity to otherwise. This exhibit, Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, is no exception. It has shifted my narrative on immigration and acculturation and provided me with cultural touchstones outside the Jewish experience. So this is what I am going to miss when the exhibit closes in one week (NOTE: The final day of the exhibit is Labor Day Monday, September 7 from Noon to 4–Get here before the exhibit closes)
The power of the Jewish star: I grew up with the myth of Sandy Koufax looming large (my dad had seen him pitch and this outing was one of the bedrocks of his fandom, which was passed to me), but I had never really had the opportunity to explore some of the other Jewish Major Leaguers. I particularly fell in love with Detroit Tigers first baseman, Hank Greenberg. The original Hebrew Hammer was a hitting machine, the only person to come close to Babe Ruth’s home run record between Ruth and Roger Maris. In addition, he is the first player to sit out a game on Yom Kippur. Poet Edgar A Guest documented this in his 1934 poem “Speaking of Greenberg.” Beyond his baseball prowess, he was the first American League player to enlist in the army during World War II, immediately after his second MVP season. He served in the US Air Corps for 4 years.
The Knothole Club: This story really shows the power of public-private partnerships. Borchert Field, where the minor league Brewers played was a great distraction for young students. It was a full city block at 7th and Burleigh, easily accessible for city kids, who would skip school and watch the games through the holes in the fence. Milwaukee Recreation Director, John Zussman, decided that he would capitalize on this desire for baseball and he created the Knothole Club, which rewarded school attendance with tickets. This club continued once the Milwaukee Braves came to town. Kids would sign the following: “I agree, as a guest of the National League Baseball Club of Milwaukee, Inc., to conduct myself in a way that will reflect credit to the organization through which I became a member.” Zussman’s legacy is still felt in Milwaukee today, as two athletic scholarships are awarded each year in his name.
The Milwaukee Brewers are really amazing Presenting Sponsors: This exhibit received great support from our presenting sponsors. They lent us some really great pieces, including a Prince Fielder jersey (the size boggles the mind) and a bat signed by the entire ’57 World Series Championship team. Beyond this, they helped promote the exhibit broadly and within their own blogs and broadcasts. Finally, a special thanks to one pair of our honorary chairs, Mark and Debbie Attanasio, who had their first joint interview as part of this exhibit. Their warmth and accessibility made this such a special night.
The Mensches of Baseball: This is an exhibit that celebrates the good guy and I have loved being able to spend my summer with Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente. These men were not only amazing players, but were amazing people who dedicated their lives to helping others.
A League of Their Own is just the beginning: As part of the exhibit, we explored the legacy of women and baseball with our series exploring the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was funded by the Wisconsin Humanities Council. In addition, we borrowed a uniform, pennant and hat from The History Museum in South Bend, Indiana, which are on display in the exhibit. During the lecture series, we were introduced to Tiby Eisen, a Jewish player in the AAGBPL, who stole 674 bases in 966 career-games. I also had the privilege to meet Joyce Westerman, who played in the league for nine years, including playing for the Championship South Bend Blue Sox in 1952. Joyce spoke with her biographer Bob Kann and charmed the crowd with stories of relearning to throw, changing game rules, and the complicated rules of being feminine while playing a sport. You can get a sense of the game these women played through this newsreel:
Bud Selig is a heck of a storyteller: Our other set of honorary chairs were Bud and Sue Selig. You can’t talk about baseball, especially baseball in Milwaukee or baseball as a means of social change, without talking about the impact of the Commissioner Emeritus. In the pieces that we developed, we engaged the history of how Bud brought baseball back to Milwaukee. We were thrilled that he opened our exhibit up sharing his experiences as an owner and as the commissioner. Highlights included his thoughts on George Steinbrenner and playing baseball against Herb Kohl as a child. I particularly loved his sense that baseball is a social institution that has brought the experiences of minorities to the fore in the United States. Take the time and watch the full Bud Selig opening below (Bud starts at the 8:00 mark, the introduction by Mark Attanasio is also worth watching!):
Take a moment out this week and come by the Museum to explore this fabulous exhibit before the last out.
By: Ellie Gettinger,
Education Director, Jewish Museum Milwaukee
Upon reading the title of this blog, you suddenly had the song of the same name stuck in your head. By all accounts this is third best known song in the United States, after the national anthem and “Happy Birthday to You”. The song was dashed off quickly in 1908 by Jack Norworth after seeing an ad for a baseball game at the Polo Grounds. He had never been to a baseball game. Nor had the song’s composer, Albert Von Tilzer. Born Albert Gumm, he took his mother’s maiden name Tilzer and added the von title to make himself sound less Jewish. Von Tilzer and Norworth collobarated as part of a Tin Pan Alley partnership. The song became famous as Norworth’s wife Nora Bayes, sang it throughout the country.
The thing that really struck me about this baseball anthem, is that the lyric that we know so well is actually just the chorus of a much longer song. The song is all about a young lady named Katie Casey who is an avid baseball fan, who when asked about going to see a show opts for a baseball game instead. She proceeds to demonstrate her grasp of the game and its players and uses the song itself to help rally her team. As a woman who loves baseball, I love this. I love that we have Katie as a model of sport’s fandom from the early days of the game. That she loves baseball independently from her beau and probably could explain a thing or two to him!
As a woman who loves baseball, the first question I often get is oh, did your husband get you involved? Did he teach you about baseball? Ladies, I think we, like Katie Casey (and in later versions Nora Kelly), can say “No, I’ll tell you what you can do!” Here is an early example of baseball’s allure to fans of both gender, which continues to today. Baseball is the sport with the most gender parity among its fans, and yet, many of us feel the need to defend our position, to show our knowledge. Just like Katie Casey, who “Knew the players by their first names; Told the umpire he was wrong” This is one of the many stories at play in Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American exhibit (open through September 7, 2015), which was developed by the National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia. It’s a story that is expanded through the lens of women players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League and the contemporary story of Justine Seigel. I celebrate these stories and have relished the opportunities to share them. I also honor the many women who have joined us this summer to explore baseball.
So now, without further ado: here are the complete lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
Katie Casey was base ball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said,
“No, I’ll tell you what you can do.”
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”
Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names;
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”
And because you deserve it, check out Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra singing a somewhat modified version of the song in their 1949 film entitled “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
Before Jewish Museum Milwaukee was a glimmer in the eye of this community, the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society developed a web presence. This website was chock full of information, including exhibits and online databases. It won the Governor’s Archive Award for providing the public with great resources.When JMM opened in 2008, we reconfigured our website to promote an actual brick-and-mortar site. This website offered our virtual visitors with a taste of what they can see in the Museum and provided helpful information.
Today, we are thrilled to launch our new website. This website was designed to work on multiple platforms–computers, phones and tablets. In addition, the flexible design enables the Museum staff to add and change the site based on upcoming programs and exhibits. We are thrilled to maintain our same online collections including the Chronicle Death and Burial Records, and Marriage Records.
We have to thank our partners at Lanex for refining our vision and helping direct our thoughts. This website would also not be possible without the Peck Foundation, who provided the funds for this overhaul. We appreciate their vision for a Museum website that is both more accessible and more informative.
Original template of Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society website
This website launched in March, 2008. One month before the Museum opened.