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Days of Remembrance 0 Comment(s)

Today Congress gathered to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust. Almost on a daily basis we receive phone calls asking for the Holocaust Museum's phone number. I answered such a call just now.

Every member of our staff has its number by their phone to assist. Why? Our organization has the benefit of having "Jewish" as the first word of its name-- hence we are listed in the phone book under "Jewish." The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is harder to find. So we have been an unofficial directory for years. Filling a role to help visitors and our community locate this important colleague museum and in a small way faciliatate remembering the hard lessons of the past.

Disney’s Lessons 0 Comment(s)

So what could my Spring break vacation to Walt Disney World possibly teach me about working in an authentic historic site?? After all, the kids were immediately on to it. They quickly said, "Mommy, everything here is fake."

Here's the thing. I noticed that even at Disney folks are looking for ways to create personal experiences. Their staff or "cast members" as they are called play a prominent role in leading programs, asking questions, involving the audience. Far different than my last Disney experience. It seems visitors like the personal touch. That confirms what we have been working to achieve for years-- staff, volunteers, and board members interacting with the public at programs, walking tours, and other activities. Putting a face to our communal history.

Plus we have the added bonus of a real, authentic historic site. We will soon unveil great new plans for our site to educate and enthuse our visitors. And unique new ways to give a personal and unique touch to our tours and programming-- stay tuned!

AAM Advocacy Days 0 Comment(s)

I got my first taste of Hill lobbying this week when I participated in the American Association of Museums' Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill. On Monday, I attended a workshop revealing insider tips on how to prepare and talk to legislators.

Then on Tuesday, the real deal. Visits to two Congressional offices where along with colleagues from museums across the country we encouraged increased federal support for museums. I joined a group visit to a staffer of our own DC Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. Afterward, I met with folks in the office of Representative Ed Perlmutter from Colorado. That's me in the back right corner of the photo.

In addition to our museum, I had been asked to represent the Council of American Jewish Museums—the professional group for the more than 60 Jewish museums nationwide. As a former chair of that group, I like to participate and show support however I can to our sister institutions throughout the country. It’s been an interesting experience, and I was able to meet some really interesting new colleagues. And I always love telling folks about our Museum and how our historic synagogue was moved -- it never ceases to amaze.

Visit to Jewish Greece 0 Comment(s)

Just before Thanksgiving I was a conferee at the Association of European Jewish Museums conference in Athens, Greece.

Six years ago Zanet Battinou, the Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, visited our Museum where I hosted a luncheon for her to meet DC museum professionals. Since then, we have shared ideas especially since the Jewish Museum in Athens is in a small, historic building. That's Zanet on the left in the photo with me during my trip to Greece.

It was exciting to see the Museum in person. A beautiful neo-Classical structure in the historic Plaka was totally gutted and an amazing spiral floor plate installed to create seven levels of exhibitry tracing the history of the Jews in Greece from ancient times to today.

Today, 5,000 Jews live in Greece. We toured the city visiting a synagogue and cemetery as well as the ancient city of Chalkis. At the Chalkis cemetery extraordinary excavations have revealed 15th century tombs of Kaballists. Their synagogue has stood on the same site since ancient times. What will become of this small community now numbering only 50 Jews?

Presentations on exhibitions in Europe showed two standouts about the history of keeping kosher created by two museums in Germany-- the Jewish Museums of Berlin and Fürth. Workshops focused on collections storage in small spaces (how appropriate) and Greek synagogue religious objects. I was particularly interested in the silver amulets, unique to Greece, sewn on parochets (curtains covering the ark) and dedicated at holidays. Successors to amulets of the ancient Greeks, the curator showed examples of those ancient amulets: arms, legs and even a forehead sculpted in marble.

Two outstanding museum field trips rounded out the conference. First, the the new and acclaimed Acropolis Museum with its glass floor allowing us to see down into the excavations of ancient Athens. The windows of the Museum allow a view of the Acropolis as you view it's treasures in the Museum. The Benaki Museum tells the history of Greek culture through pottery, sculpture, jewelry and costumes from ancient times to today. The view of Athens from the cafe on its highest floor is incredible. And the traditional Greek food was great too.

If you are traveling to Athens, I encourage you to visit the Jewish Museum of Greece. I'm happy to suggest some of the places I was able to see along with some of the tastes of Athens that I enjoyed.