PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – CBS 3 and the CW Philly are proud to be media sponsors of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and we got an exclusive tour inside.
Overlooking Independence Mall and the Liberty Bell is the latest museum to grace America’s most historic neighborhood: the new home of the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Michael Rosenzweig, museum president and CEO, said, “The truth is while the museum has existed since 1976, in a very significant extent it is a brand-new institution.”
One hundred thousand square feet (nearly ten times the space of the old museum) invites visitors to explore the story of American Jews. It’s a story told with thousands of artifacts, thirty original films, and interactive exhibits, such as a huge map of America in the 1800s, as deputy director Josh Perelman showed.
“One of the great opportunities this map makes possible is that it shows really the geographic spread of the Jewish-American community,” said Perelman.
Kids can even explore a covered wagon and read about Fanny, who wrote her life story of moving west.
“It really gives children a way to get into the story, to have hands on, to dress up, to experience life as Fanny would have,” said Perelman.
Just like many other American groups, many Jews came through Ellis Island. Here you can stand as if you yourself were one of those people hoping to be allowed entry into America.
“We really wanted to create an atmosphere of being an immigrant,” said Perelman.
Michael Rosenzweig said, “The story of the American Jewish experience is very similar to the stories of Irish-Americans and Asian-Americans and Italian-Americans.”
We’ve gone from the wagon trail to Ellis Island and now to the suburbs.
“We’re standing inside this great suburban house we’ve created,” said Perelman.
Inside are the things many midcentury people would recognize — the black and white TVs, the bowling shirts, all with a clearly Jewish theme.
“This is a really important time for American Jews when as they moved into suburbia,” said Perelman. “They really had to figure out, what does it mean to be integrated into American society?”
There are also exhibits inviting the public to comment on issues today, even submit their own stories via websites to become a part of the ever-evolving story of the American Jew.
For additional information on the museum, visit: www.nmajh.org.