Exhibitions

October 7, 1944

In Cooperation with Yeshiva University Museum.

This exhibition is the American attempt to respond to four women, and the revolt in Auschwitz that they helped make possible.

On view: October 7, 2014 to December 30, 2014
Location: Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY

Led by Jonah Bokaer’s artistic vision and interpretation, and supported by research in the primary-source archives of the American Jewish Historical Society and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, we aim to reintroduce the visitor to a largely unknown or forgotten historical event—an event that could not have transpired without Roza, Estera, Regina and Ala. These women were not remarkable in any way that is known to us. They were young women who believed what they were doing was right. Through a non-traditional format that marries music, movement, choreography, archival material and film, we attempt to honor their bravery, and make their names known to you.

—Rachel Lithgow, Curator, Executive Director American Jewish Historical Society

Born to Tunisian and American parents in Ithaca, NY, Jonah Bokaer is an international choreographer, media artist, and art space developer. His work, which integrates choreography with digital media, is often the result of his cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists and architects.

Creating choreography for museum spaces since 2002, Bokaer has performed at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, P.S.1 MoMA, The New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, as well as in The Asia Society | Texas, Le Carré d’Art à Nîmes, IVAM Valencia, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, and MUDAM Luxembourg, among others. A full list of museum projects is listed below.

The creator of 33 dances, ten videos, three motion capture works, three interactive installations, two mobile applications, and one film, Bokaer’s work has been produced throughout theaters in Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Recent performances include two seasons at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (2011-2012), the 2012 Festival d’Avignon in France, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, and the BAM Next Wave Festival 2012, for which he was commissioned for the inauguration of BAM Fisher, with artist Anthony McCall.

In 2008-2009 Bokaer became the first dance artist to be appointed a Young Leader of the French American Foundation, in acknowledgment of his efforts to develop Chez Bushwick, and CPR - Center for Performance Research, two independent arts centers which nurture young artists in New York City and internationally. Bokaer has collaborated with artists including Daniel Arsham (2007-present), Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham, Robert Gober, Anthony McCall, Tino Sehgal, and Robert Wilson (2007-present).

As choreographer for Robert Wilson, he has completed many operas including “Faust” (Polish National Opera), “Aïda” (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), “KOOL” (Japan/USA Guggenheim Works & Process), “Fronteras” (IVAM Valenica), and “On The Beach” (Baryshnikov Arts Center).

Bokaer was recently named one of ten American artists to receive a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant award for the development of his third mobile application, in partnership with Georgia Tech.

jonahbokaer.net

By Dawn's Early Light

Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation's Founding to the Civil War

On view: March 16, 2014 to August 16, 2014
Location: Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Great Hall, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, NY

An exhibition of works from the Princeton University Library's Leonard L. Milberg '53 Jewish American Writers Collection with additional materials from The Library Company of Philadelphia and American Jewish Historical Society.

This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Leonard L. Milberg with additional support from the Center for Jewish History.

Letters of Conscience

Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide

On view: March 18, 2010 to April 18, 2010
Location: Selz Foundation Gallery, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, NY

Raphael Lemkin devoted most of his life to studying and writing about genocide, a term he coined to draw international attention to a crime that had no name. He also actively campaigned for international laws that would protect ethnic, racial, religious and national groups. His most intensive efforts focused on the drafting, adoption, and ratification of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

When Lemkin died in 1959, he left an extensive trove of correspondence and papers documenting his work, as well as treatises on the meaning and impact of genocide. Today, many of those papers are held in the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, from which most of the artifacts used in this exhibition are drawn. Additional collections are located at the New York Public Library and the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

Together, they provide an important resource and source of inspiration for new generations of scholars, human rights advocates, diplomats, and activists who continue to wrestle with the crime of genocide, which, sadly, continues to occur in the world today.

From Haven to Home

Three Hundred and Fifty Years of Jewish Life in America
Presented by The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan in cooperation with the American Jewish Historical Society

On view: November 1, 2009 to November 30, 2009

Organized by AJHS/Boston, From Haven to Home has traveled to cities across the U.S. since it first appeared in 2004 in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Jewish presence in America. It is available for travel in 2010 and 2011. If interested, or for more information, click here

Pages from a Performing Life

The Scrapbooks of Molly Picon

On view: January 26, 2009 to February 26, 2009
Location: Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Great Hall, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, NY

Small in stature but larger than life, Molly Picon commanded a global audience.  Born to immigrant parents in New York, Picon spoke English from childhood, yet she rose to fame performing in Yiddish for audiences from Argentina to Zagreb.  She entertained American troops in Korea and played to Jewish survivors in post-Holocaust Warsaw.  She dressed as a yeshiva boy to play Yidl and an old woman to play Yente and in doing so won the hearts of audiences even if they did not speak Yiddish. A combination showstopper and public servant, character actress and superstar, Molly Picon embodied the spirit of Yiddish theater and culture for the 20th century.The American Jewish Historical Society presents a personal account of Molly Picon's life on and off the Yiddish theater stage in this exhibit of scrapbooks kept by the legendary performer and her husband and collaborator, Jacob Kalich.Press Release

American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors, 1945-1953

On view: January 1, 2008 to February 1, 2008

American Jewish Army chaplains were among the first to encounter Jewish survivors of the Nazi's extermination campaign. One thousand American rabbis, half the rabbis in the United States, volunteered to serve in the war. Three hundred and eleven Jewish chaplains served on active duty. Of those, approximately 60 had the opportunity to help the survivors in Europe and elsewhere. AJHS organized this stirring exhibition on these chaplains drawn from its extensive holdings, including the records of the Jewish Welfare Board.

Heroes from Abroad

The Machal and/Aliyah Bet Legacy

On view: January 19, 2011 to July 19, 2011

This exhibition tells the little-known story of “Machal,” Hebrew for the “volunteers from abroad” who fought in Israel's War of Independence in 1946-1947. Close to 1500 North American men and women (among volunteers from other countries) participated in this effort. At the time of their participation, many of these individuals had been only recently decommissioned from service in World War II. They chose again to risk their lives, not to mention their citizenship, by piloting the ships that illegally transported thousands of Holocaust survivors to Palestine in the face of a determined British naval blockade. Subsequently, the “Machalniks” joined all branches of the military that fought to make Israel a living reality. It was principally Machalniks who created the future Israeli navy and air force; principally Machalniks who transported vital arms and hardware to the fledgling and embattled state; and principally Machalniks who provided crucial air support to fend off the invading armies engulfing Israel.

Machal's achievements remain largely unheralded even to this day. The Machal veterans themselves long hesitated to tell their stories for fear of endangering their legal status in their home countries, while the government of Israel was more eager to tout the deeds of its own native and adopted sons. Because of the advanced age of most of these veterans, few opportunities still remain to give them a just recognition. This is why AJHS, which recently became the permanent home of the Machal archives (including letters, diaries, official documents, photographs, and objects), has seized this moment to tell their story. This beautiful new exhibition, based on a design created by a Machal veteran, offers a fascinating introduction to this important but neglected topic.

Voices of Change

Jewish Youth in America

On view: October 28, 2008 to November 28, 2008

Young Jews in America have been prominent in the ranks of Jewish political and social movements from anarchism to the counterculture and feminism. They have played a key role in developing a Jewish press, pioneering new Jewish institutions, and creating alternatives to those institutions. They have also been the object of communal disapproval, anxiety and policy.

The exhibit includes leaflets, newsletters and reviews from World War I into the twenty-first century that contain expressions of their desire to “do something Jewish”  to implement change, oppose oppression and war, assure the survival of Yiddish, find their own Jewish identity and new forms of religious observance.

October 7, 1944

In Cooperation with Yeshiva University Museum.

This exhibition is the American attempt to respond to four women, and the revolt in Auschwitz that they helped make possible.

On view: October 7, 2014 to December 30, 2014

Led by Jonah Bokaer’s artistic vision and interpretation, and supported by research in the primary-source archives of the American Jewish Historical Society and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, we aim to reintroduce the visitor to a largely unknown or forgotten historical event—an event that could not have transpired without Roza, Estera, Regina and Ala. These women were not remarkable in any way that is known to us. They were young women who believed what they were doing was right. Through a non-traditional format that marries music, movement, choreography, archival material and film, we attempt to honor their bravery, and make their names known to you.

—Rachel Lithgow, Curator, Executive Director American Jewish Historical Society

Born to Tunisian and American parents in Ithaca, NY, Jonah Bokaer is an international choreographer, media artist, and art space developer. His work, which integrates choreography with digital media, is often the result of his cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists and architects.

Creating choreography for museum spaces since 2002, Bokaer has performed at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, P.S.1 MoMA, The New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, as well as in The Asia Society | Texas, Le Carré d’Art à Nîmes, IVAM Valencia, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, and MUDAM Luxembourg, among others. A full list of museum projects is listed below.

The creator of 33 dances, ten videos, three motion capture works, three interactive installations, two mobile applications, and one film, Bokaer’s work has been produced throughout theaters in Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Recent performances include two seasons at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (2011-2012), the 2012 Festival d’Avignon in France, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, and the BAM Next Wave Festival 2012, for which he was commissioned for the inauguration of BAM Fisher, with artist Anthony McCall.

In 2008-2009 Bokaer became the first dance artist to be appointed a Young Leader of the French American Foundation, in acknowledgment of his efforts to develop Chez Bushwick, and CPR - Center for Performance Research, two independent arts centers which nurture young artists in New York City and internationally. Bokaer has collaborated with artists including Daniel Arsham (2007-present), Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham, Robert Gober, Anthony McCall, Tino Sehgal, and Robert Wilson (2007-present).

As choreographer for Robert Wilson, he has completed many operas including “Faust” (Polish National Opera), “Aïda” (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), “KOOL” (Japan/USA Guggenheim Works & Process), “Fronteras” (IVAM Valenica), and “On The Beach” (Baryshnikov Arts Center).

Bokaer was recently named one of ten American artists to receive a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant award for the development of his third mobile application, in partnership with Georgia Tech.

jonahbokaer.net

Contributors to the Cause 

A History of Jewish Philanthropy in America

On view: October 2, 2013 to February 28, 2014

Contributors to the Cause, an exhibition at the Center for Jewish History at 15 West 16th Street in New York City, is an overview of the history of Jewish philanthropy in the United States on view from October 2, 2013 - February 28, 2014. The exhibition presents a historical narrative and a compelling collection of more than 200 on-screen images of archival material including letters, documents, photographs, organizational papers, and government records dating from the 1700s through the late 20th century. The archival material comes from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society and the exhibition is made possible by The David Berg Foundation.

New York Places/Jewish Spaces

Life in the City, 1700-2012

On view: August 1, 2012 to August 31, 2012

Over their centuries-long relationship with New York City, Jews have carved out a multitude of public and private spaces as their own, including neighborhood streets, businesses, synagogues and tenement apartments, as well as the temporarily-Jewish stadiums, squares and concert halls that served as venues for special events.

Come discover the various identities of New York Jews (from the years 1700-2012) by exploring the spaces that they have created for themselves. Learn how Jews have shaped New York, how the largest city in the U.S. has molded the Jews, and what Jewish spaces in the city can teach us about the many varieties of “New York Jews” who have lived here.

This exhibition, presented in partnership with the American Jewish Historical Society, incorporates historical artifacts and interactive media. It is part of the Center's Documenting America Initiative and has been made possible by The David Berg Foundation with additional support from The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, The Kumble Cultural Fund and The Selz Family Cultural Fund.