The Arty Semite

Words on Display at the National Yiddish Book Center

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

  • Print
  • Share Share

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

As just about everyone knows by now, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia has opened a spanking new, $150 million facility where, say its supporters, the “American Jewish dream has been fulfilled.”

NYBC

Meanwhile, the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., has just debuted a number of imaginative and thoughtful, if small-scale, exhibitions of its own. They run the gamut from a salute to Yiddish children’s literature to “Shalom Bayes: Reflections on the American Jewish Home,” which I had the good fortune to curate.

These two institutions couldn’t be more different from one another. The National Museum of American Jewish History proudly takes its place within the urban landscape of downtown Philadelphia; the National Yiddish Book Center is nestled amidst a New England apple orchard.

One institution is big, bold and shiny; fashioned out of glass, it’s hard to miss. The other, which takes its architectural cues from the wooden synagogues of Poland, is a modest affair; fashioned out of wood, its exterior bears unmistakable signs of having weathered many a cold winter.

Orientation, no less than physical attributes, also distinguishes the two institutions. One looks outward, its sights set on America, or what historians have taken to calling the New World. The other looks inward, unabashedly embracing the Old.

And a third distinction: The National Museum of American Jewish History, as befits its mandate, gives objects pride of place. The National Yiddish Book Center, as befits its mission, gives pride of place to words.

Despite their manifold differences, what links one to the other is a shared commitment to showcasing and interpreting the richness and complexity of the cultural patrimony of the Jews, from those who spoke Yiddish to those who pointedly did not.

Some of us might prefer the company of objects to that of books, or the subtle gesture rather than the extravagant one. No matter. When it comes to the transmission of knowledge about matters Judaic, America’s Jews need all the help and encouragement they can get.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: National Museum of American Jewish History, Jenna Weissman Joselit, From Under the Fig Tree, Exhibits, National Yiddish Book Center

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.