Museum of Family History: What’s new?

The Museum of Family History has three new November exhibits.

— Paint What You Remember: The Memories of Mayer Kirshenblatt of Opatów, Poland

Mayer Kirshenblatt left his hometown of Opatów (Apt), Poland in 1934 at age 17 for a new life in Canada. He brought along some physical possessions, but also a storehouse of memories that he would carry with him for many decades.

Thanks to his daughter, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (Core Exhibition Development Team leader for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw) and his wife – both urged him to paint what he remembered -Mayer began painting in 1990. He has created more than 300 paintings, each one a memory of life in his hometown, where thousands of Jews once lived.

Barbara allowed Steve to create an exhibit of her father’s work. In this exhibit and a second one, hear Mayer’s voice and see dozens of his acrylic-on-canvas works dealing with his family life and Jewish communal life in the 1920s-30s. See his works and listen to him speak on nearly 20 audio clips.

Mayer says that “every Jewish town is the same,” so perhaps, writes Steve, we wouldn’t be taking liberties to imagine that our families, our European ancestors in a town populated by thousands of Jews, might have lived just like this.

This is a good incentive for viewers to draw or paint their own childhood memories in Europe, the US or elsewhere. Record them on paper or canvas and also audio record the stories for your children and grandchildren.

The first exhibition is here (many audio clips and three video clips); the second exhibition is now part of a larger “Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays exhibit, with his paintings and comments.

— A Multitude of Immigrants: American Newspapers and How They Addressed the Immigration Issue

This is a series of eight articles from three New York City newspapers published 1891-1910 –The New York Daily Tribune, The Sun and The World. Immigration to the US was extremely high during this period. Politicians and the public were split on what US policy should be toward immigrants, especially the uneducated and unskilled, and not wanting immigrants to become “pauperized.” What kinds of restrictions should be imposed, not just on Jewish immigration, but on other nationalities?

— 250 Years in America

1905 was considered the 250th anniversary of the first Jewish settlers in the US in 1655. Read three articles discussing the contributions of Jews to the US. One is specific to Jewish contribution to New York, while another considers the future of Judaism.

The Museum now has an archive of some 60 historic newspaper articles. Each listing on this web page is linked to an exhibit. Take a look and find articles of interest, arranged by exhibit. Many articles have been added since last month. Most were published 1880-1910, important years for Jewish immigration, pogroms, and other events. Reading them can be a learning experience.

Steve Lasky does a great job in frequently posting new, interesting material. Readers may want to check-in every few days. An even better way is to go to his blog and sign up for alerts via email or RSS.

At the Philly 2009 conference, Steve asked me how he could let people know about the online Museum of Family History and my immediate response was that he set up a blog. His next question was “how?” We sat for a few sessions at a table on the main conference floor and managed to do most of it. I thank Steve for his kind words about helping him to accomplish this, as I am a firm believer in passing on knowledge and assistance to those who deserve and appreciate it.

For more information about his museum, contact Steve.

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