I have had the good intentions of visiting the Maltz Musuem of Jewish Heritage for a few years now but have just never made it a point to carve out time to do it. Amanda’s trip to Disney coincides with Chanukah and I thought it would be the perfect way to spend a dreary, winter Cleveland afternoon. As a non-Jewish gal I got to learn a lot about Jewish culture and history.
There is a temporary exhibit that’s about the 1936 Berlin Olympics and it is there until January 23rd, 2011. I would never consider myself a history buff; I found most of what I studied in High School History mind-numbingly boring. One of the few things that always interested me was World War II because I grew up having many Jewish friends. I cannot recall ever having learned much of anything about the Berlin Olympics and I was quite shocked by what I learned at the Maltz Museum. There are propaganda posters (translated for those of us who do not speak German) videos, photographs and the Olympic torch is on loan to us from the Holocaust Museum in D.C. The saddest part of the display was a wall where there was a small biography about the Jewish people who participated in the Olympics, all of whom were killed during the Holocaust. I spent the bulk of my time reading every inch of information made available to me which left less time for the other two parts of the museum.
The first permanent exhibit I explored was the Temple-Tifereth Israel. It contains artifacts from modern and historic Jewish life. Upon entering, I saw a beautiful and enormous menorah. I was also captivated by a wedding canopy and a marriage contract from the 1500s. There is modern art by Jewish artists about life as a Jewish person and stories from the Torah. According to the website, it is the fourth oldest museum of Judaica in the United States and the collection is quite lovely.
The second permanent exhibit is entitled “An American Story” and talked about famous Jewish people and their contributions to society. I couldn’t help but smile to see that the late, great, Cleveland native Harvey Pekar was featured. The exhibit elaborates on different issues faced by Jewish immigrants from a historical perspective. It shows the struggles faced by Jewish people who have just arrived in the United States, how they have built a community within Cleveland. The Great Depression is then covered but I didn’t spend too much time on that section of the exhibit. In part it was because I wanted to check out the next portion, that talked about World War II and the rebuilding afterwards.
That part of the museum was particularly difficult part for me to view. Featured are quotes from Cleveland holocaust survivors, memorabilia, photos and looping video. I have never been to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. but I picture this to be a smaller and less intense version of that. As a one of German heritage I have always felt vicarious shame for what Hitler did. It was difficult for me to look at pictures and read what the survivors had to say about their experiences. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked on this section because I was reminded by a kind but firm short woman that they were closing in 5 minutes.
There is also a gift shop but because I ran out of time, I can’t comment on it. Other than that it was well-lit and appeared to be quite clean.
I found the museum to be an excellent balance of history and culture. It is intimate and information. I would highly recommend it to Jews and gentiles alike!
About the Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Grepp
Elizabeth is a native Clevelander who has been an avid reader and writer for as long as she can remember. Pursuing a degree in Public Relations and as a staff writer for her college’s award-winning newspaper, she was able to continue her long-standing love affair with comma splices. A resident of Cleveland Heights for nearly 4 years, Elizabeth’s obsession with the area is driven by the good food, music and fascinating characters who visit or live there. You can follow her on twitter under the clever pseudonym @egrepp or @cleyogi where she shares her journey becoming certified to teach yoga.