The Arty Semite

Museum of Jewish Heritage Back to Normal After Hurricane Irene

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Water from New York Harbor washes over a sidewalk in Battery Park on August 27.

“Everything is back to normal today” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City at the lower tip of Manhattan, according to Associate Director Abby Spilka.

Spilka was afraid this was not going to be the case when she left the Museum late Friday, after taking precautions against the possible effects of Hurricane Irene. “Currently, we are all feeling the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and there are things that will put us back to that morning. When I was told to evacuate and pack up, not knowing what I would return to, it was harder than I was expected it would be. We were all so relieved that the Museum fared well and we couldn’t wait to get back to work this morning,” Spilka said.

Despite the evacuation orders issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, four members of the Museum’s security and operations staff hunkered down on site for the duration of the hurricane. Spilka and other senior staff were in touch with them throughout, checking in for regular updates.

To everyone’s relief, the storm did not reach any higher than four inches below the top of the sea wall just outside the Museum. Consequently, the building suffered no flooding, and the only damage was minor leaking on the fourth floor and on the third floor rotunda, where the installation of the soon-to-open “Yahrzeit: September 11 Remembered” is taking place.

“We’ve been reflecting a lot on the fact that both an earthquake and a hurricane have taken place during the installation of this particular exhibition,” Spilka noted.

In preparation for the arrival of Irene, nine members of the staff, together with two former Museum employees who wanted to lend a hand, removed all the artifacts from the first floor galleries. The Museum closed at noon on Friday, and by 4:30, all those artifacts — including more than one Holocaust Torah scroll — had been moved to a third floor prep room. Most of the workers who managed this feat weren’t even members of the Collections and Exhibitions department, as many of those staff were on vacation and unable to return due to grounded flights.

Other precautions were taken, as well. The entrances to and base of the building were sandbagged, items in the gift shop and resource center were moved off the floor, and the contents of the library were covered in plastic. The Fazioli piano in the Museum’s theater, which sits below ground, was wrapped up. It weathered the storm without damage. “Unwrapping it this morning was like unwrapping a beautiful and expensive present,” remarked Spilka.

There were visitors lined up waiting to get in at 10:30 am this morning, so the Museum is open for business today. The reinstallation of the first floor will take longer than its de-installation. That part of the museum will remain closed until further notice, but it shouldn’t be too long before those galleries are again accessible to visitors. Spilka said that staff members had voluntarily cut short their late summer vacations to come in and help put things back in order.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Renee Ghert-Zand, Museum of Jewish Heritage, Hurricane Irene

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!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















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

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.