AMUD AISH MEMORIAL MUSEUM: WINTER 2017 NEWSLETTER
Welcome to the inaugural newsletter of Amud Aish Memorial Museum and Kleinman Holocaust Education Center (Amud Aish), an institution that brings a new voice to the study of Holocaust history. Through the inclusion of the experience and perspective of observant Jewish communities, the museum bears witness to their world and how they lived before, during, and immediately after the Holocaust.
The museum is currently in a temporary location which houses exhibition space, archive and artifact processing and storage, and an education program for school groups. The official opening of the permanent space in Brooklyn is slated for 2017.
A Conversation with our Director, Rabbi Sholom Friedmann:
Rabbi Sholom Friedmann joined the museum in 2012, and he has guided its growth and transformation from a small education center to a full-fledged museum with international programs and an important collection that includes an unprecedented amount of materials documenting the rescue efforts made by Orthodox Jews. Before joining the museum, Rabbi Friedmann was an award-winning educator; a Fellow in Holocaust Education at the prestigious Imperial War Museum, London; and the Director of Zechor Yemos Olam, the Holocaust education division of Torah Umesorah.
1. Can you tell us about how this museum came to be?
The seeds of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum were planted in 2009 when our founder and President, Elly Kleinman, was approached by a synagogue looking for a donation to support a small Holocaust library in their building in Brooklyn. Elly, recognizing the importance of Holocaust education as we face growing Anti-Semitism and as survivors leave us, worked with the synagogue and community members to establish something more substantial: the Kleinman Holocaust Education Center. Since then, we have been growing faster than we could have imagined: there has been an outpouring of support from the community, and our collection of Holocaust-era historical artifacts and documents is like no other in the world. Our educational program for students has reached many thousands in our temporary location and through our summer camp programs, and our traveling exhibitions have been seen by more than 10,000 people in the last few years. Additionally,we’re working with museums throughout Europe and Israel to bring our unique collection of artifacts to international audiences. With all of this, “education center” only begins to describe what we’re doing - our activities are consistent with that of a museum. To that end we recently rebranded as Amud Aish Memorial Museum.
2. As the Director & CEO, what are your main goals for Amud Aish?
One goal is to create a new narrative for Holocaust history - one that focuses on the victims and how they lived their lives and maintained their faith in the face of almost certain death. Amud Aish will tell the full history of the Holocaust from their perspective, not - like other Holocaust museums - from that of the perpetrator. In telling the victims’ stories, we also focus on the survivors and the rebirth of spiritual and religious life beginning in the displaced persons camps of Europe and continuing with the revival of Orthodox Judaism in America, Israel, and other parts of the world. Another goal is to educate the Jewish community and the general public about this previously unexplored period in history so that it becomes a known part of history. It’s not enough to just commemorate the Holocaust, we must explore the artifacts and the documents, we must hear the stories. We are working to secure the knowledge of the Holocaust for future generations.
3. Why did the museum choose Amud Aish as its name?
We chose this name because of its significance to the Jewish people and its relevance to the lessons of the Holocaust. The “amud aish” was the “pillar of fire” that guided the Jews at night as they wandered the desert during the Exodus from Egypt. As Jews, we look to our history for guidance on how to meet challenges and move on from difficult times. Like the amud aish, the lessons of the Holocaust are a guiding light for us on how we can keep our faith and maintain hope even in the darkest hours.
4. Prior to the opening of the permanent site, can people see your collections?
Yes. Throughout the year we are asked to provide small exhibits at events in the tri-state area. This year we brought our "Faith and the Holocaust" exhibition, which maps the experience of observant Jews during the Holocaust, to the New York State Supreme Court Annual Holocaust Remembrance Program and the 2016 Agudath Israel Convention. We also curated a special exhibit for the Satmar community in Williamsburg for the Seniors and Holocaust Survivors Women’s Event hosted by the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn (UJO). And, we hosted an exhibition for the Deaf in collaboration with Our Way NJCD/OU at our temporary space in Mill Basin. Finally, we created an exhibition focused on the experience of Gur Hasidim during the Holocaust for a special event for Gur institutions. Our plans for this year include exhibitions at Upper East Side and Upper West Side synagogues. In addition to these special events and exhibitions, our temporary location in Mill Basin is host to our education department which curates exhibitions and workshops for school groups. We are now booking school groups to visit the current exhibition about hidden children which tells the stories of children who were hidden and ultimately saved by non-Jews during the Holocaust - and what happened to them after the war.
5. How can people support the mission of the museum?
There are several ways to support the museum. We are always seeking donations of artifacts and documents for the museum’s collection. As we continue to collect these items, we learn more about how people lived during the Holocaust and how connected we all were and still are. If you would like to make a donation of an artifact, please contact Chavi Felsenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Equally important is financial support which will help ensure that these stories are told - widely and often - so that our children and their children can learn about their ancestors and how they maintained their faith while facing absolute horror. We have options including straightforward donations, funding programs, and major dedication opportunities. Regular donations can be made here. For information about other ways to financially support the museum, please contact Fayga Brisman at email@example.com. Perhaps what is most valuable to our mission is building a community of like-minded supporters. In order to succeed, we need artifacts and we need financial support, but we also need advocates.
Spotlight on Chief Curator Henri Lustiger-Thaler:
Dr. Lustiger Thaler is the chief curator of Amud Aish Memorial Museum. He is responsible for overseeing the core museum team that researches, collects, documents, cares for, and displays the artifacts and documents in the collection. During his time at the museum, he has mounted several temporary exhibitions, and he plays an integral role in curating exhibitions for the school program in conjunction with the education department. Dr. Lustiger Thaler leads the museum’s international projects as advisor to the director of Amud Aish. His work in this capacity has produced joint programming with important museums in Europe including the Kazerne Dossin in Belgium and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. As project director of the Orthodox Jewish Holocaust Survivors collection, a partnership between Amud Aish and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dr. Lustiger Thaler conducts oral history interviews with survivors - often in their native Yiddish - in an effort to ensure all of their voices are heard. His forthcoming book is Witnessing Unbound: Holocaust, Representation and the Origins of Memory. Dr. Lustiger Thaler is also an international lecturer on the Holocaust and a professor of cultural sociology at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He has written extensively on communities devastated by the Holocaust; for example The Rebirth of Orthodox Judaism in the British Occupied Germany and History and Memory: The Orthodox Experience in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp.
Spotlight and Camp Programs:
Amud Aish Memorial Museum welcomes school groups to take part in its comprehensive education program. Amud Aish educators guide students and their teachers through the current exhibition and then, in a classroom setting, share with them original artifacts and documents as well as the stories that help them connect their lives to those who came before. When school is out, Amud Aish educators take to the road to visit sleepaway camps in New York and New Jersey to offer similar hands-on learning. Ask your child’s principal or camp director about our programs or contact Mrs. Julie Golding, education director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amud Aish in the News: