The Rectangle Museum
The Presentation of Jewish Heritage
by Gad Nahshon
This is the only "Rectangle Museum" in the world. Its location is perfect: Battery Park area, close to the harbor opposite the Statue of Liberty. It is not just another typical Holocaust museum. It is a Jewish Museum which depicts, using documents, objects, and oral history, the history of the Jews before the Holocaust. Indeed, it is not a "Zionist Museum". You won't find, for example, a memorial to Israel's 1948 Independence War in which 6,000 Israelis lost their lives. Although there are sections of American-Jewish history which was born in New Amsterdam, 1654, when the first Jews landed in the same area that this Museum is located, this Rectangle Museum, a beautiful one, is not a Jewish American Museum. In spite of this omission, this museum is an important contribution to the cultural-educational life of New York City. Its educational aspect is important. When I visited the Museum, I saw classes of high school students who happened to be African-Americans learning about us and more about the Holocaust or the 'Shoa' (Hebrew). I also came across a group of Russian Jews with their translator. They had a chance to learn about the Holocaust since, in Russia, one can not find Holocaust Museums, but May 8th of every year is a great memorial holiday in Russia, this is the day of Victory of the Second World War). The Museum is a must for everyone and especially for those who did not visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Admission is $7 and $5 for senior citizens.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York features many exhibitions. The last one (March to June) 'The Traitor', is the story of Captain Alfred Dreyfus as depicted by hand colored lithographs. For more information you have to fly to the new Jewish Museum in Paris. The Jewish Heritage Museum has non-stop activities geared to adults and children alike.
Indeed, we need to support this institution in order to increase its development and ability to enrich itself with more material and originality. Often the presentation of topics is too poor. I would like to learn more. There are a few omissions:
The establishment of F.D.R.'s Refuge Welfare Board was not the outcome of Morgenthau's pressure (by the way, why was his first name, Henry, omitted?). There were others: The 'Bergen Group' or The Irgun's delegation to this country. The Museum should not follow the pattern of 'political correctness'. Indeed, see Object No. 272E in the section of 'World Jewry Response to the Nazi Threat'. This is a report of a conference which was organized in Hotel Commodore, NY, 20-26, July 1943 by the 'Bergson Group' or Hillel Kook, Shmuel Merlin, Arie Ben Eliazer, Eri Jabotinsky, Itshaq Ben-Ami, and Ben Hecht. How can we, today, omit the cry out of Ben Hecht during these terrible years? How can be omit the famous: "We will never die", March 2, 1943, at the Madison Square Garden? There is an important educational message: Not all of America's elite, leaders, writers, actors, bankers, media people, were silent!! We should not defend F.D.R.'s administration behavior but his Minister of Interior, Harold Ickes, did cry out! The American churches did cry out! Of course, one can learn about the rescue efforts by many organizations: The World Jewish Congress, the Jewish Labor Committee, and especially the unique achievements of the Agudath, Israel's 'Vaad Haatzala' (The Rescue Committee of the Ultra-Orthodox segment of the American Jewry) The bottom line: please tell the visitors - E-272 - that this report belongs to the Bergson-Ben Hecht group. Do not excommunicate their cry out!
I expect more material on the fate of the Hungarian Jewry: 444,000 Jewish perish after the war was almost finished. The victory of the Allies was already written on the wall. In the section "Negotiating with the Nazis", I was happy to see the pictures of two forgotten unique heroes: Rabbi Weismandell and Gisi Fleischmann. They deserve a special place in our education projects, our Jewish Hall of Fame. Why is it not written over there that the two were from Slovakia and that Weismandell died in 1951 in his Yeshiva at Mount Kisko, Westchester. His memoirs 'Min Hamitzer' is a unique document in the huge every-growing Holocaust literature. The Heritage Museum should be praised for presenting this hero, Weismandell.
The Museum does not stress the role of those who collaborated with the Nazis. For example, the Visky Government in France. 4. From my point of view, we should tell the visitors that Great Britain committed a crime by closing the gates of Palestine and thwarted rescue efforts. The cruelty of this democratic government climaxed in holding Holocaust refugees in concentration camps in Cypress as late as Jan. 19, 1949!! (Israel was established on May 14, 1948). It is not surprising that many blamed Britain, after the war was over, for continuing the 'Final Solution'! Also, Britain pressed the F.D.R.'s administration not the develop rescue projects because they figured out that rescue means to open the Palestinian gates! The British government and Churchill's behavior were much more inhuman and cruel than F.D.R.'s behavior. The Jewish Heritage Museum is located at 18 First Place, Battery Park. Telephone: 968-1800.
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