Museum Dedicated to the Life of Jewish Americans to Open in Philadelphia

A new museum dedicated to Jewish life in America will be opened on November 26. It holds Albert Einstein’s pipe, Irving Berlin’s piano, Jonas Salk’s test tubes and many other items of interest.

Housed in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic Independence Mall, the National Museum of American Jewish History traces the history of Jewish Americans starting with 1654 and continuing to the present day. The museum aims to show the freedom that Jews found in America, an integral part of the American history, also relevant to the non-Jews.

The American Jewish experience is enormously important to the grand sweep of Jewish history,” said Michael Rosenzweig, the museum’s president. “It has not been well told, and we exist to fill that void.

Among many other history-rich items, the four exhibition floors are home to an 18th-century Moroccan Torah scroll, a uniform worn by a Jewish soldier who fought on the confederate side in the civil war and a ledger of Jewish contributions to the revolutionary cause, held by James Madison.

An array of interactive displays also tell the American Jewish story. Interactive interviews and illuminated maps are used to enhance the experience.

Each museum tour will be completed in a room in which the visitors are asked to ponder upon one of two issues: “Should all American Jews support the state of Israel?” or “Should religion play a role in American politics?” The visitor’s answers will be scanned, projected and archived.

It’s fitting that the new institution — which replaces a much smaller museum a few blocks away — is in Philadelphia where the United States was founded, rather than New York with its rich Jewish tradition, or Washington DC with its many national institutions,” Rosenzweig said. “There really is no better, more compelling location for our institution than where it is now.

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