This year, the Museum of Jewish Heritage celebrates its 20th anniversary. In doing so, the museum have put together a great calendar for the upcoming months and continue “to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the broad tapestry of Jewish life in the 20th and 21st centuries—before, during, and after the Holocaust.”
Downtown sat down with the Museum’s CEO and President Michael Glickman for a talk about the Museum of Jewish Heritage, its upcoming exhibitions and a few questions about Glickman himself, inside and outside the museum.
Photo courtesy of John Halpern
How did you wind up working with the Museum of Jewish Heritage? Did you know people working there?
Michael Glickman: I spent a decade working in the Jewish cultural world and I was quite familiar with the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. When the presidency of the Museum became available, I found the opportunities and challenges that surrounded the position to be incredibly interesting and thrilling.
Had you been to the museum before taking the job? Had you spent a lot of time in Lower Manhattan?
MG: I had been to the Museum many times for different exhibitions and programs. And, for a period of time, until September 11, 2001, I worked on Rector Street for a city agency.
Do you have any goals for the museum? Is there something that you would like to see happen?
MG: The Museum is a remarkable institution, unique to this city, as we present the history of the Holocaust. We are working hard to find innovative ways to tell the stories of individuals that capture the attention of a culturally sophisticated audience and hope to grow our attendance by leaps and bounds over the coming years. We at the Museum face the necessary challenge of representing the facts of the Holocaust, while encouraging visitors to connect to history on a human level.
Visitors to our New York home can explore items that represent personal experience of global significance. Just as importantly, they can discover thousands of testimonies by Holocaust survivors, liberators, rescuers, Jews who served in the Allied Armies during World War II, and many others. We are defining the future of testimony-based Holocaust education, pioneering new ways to explore survivor accounts and oral histories. We are focusing on how the Museum will take on an even greater role in allowing visitors to hear from witnesses and make human connections mediated through technology and supported by artifacts.
What inspired you to launch the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism?
I was fortunate that the Board of Trustees had the foresight to launch the Center about a year before I arrived.
In our own time, we are seeing a rise in both anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. We have to remain vigilant and we must protect the historical record. Given what we are seeing around the city and around the world, this center, through exhibition, program and scholarship, will offer the public opportunities to explore the history of this greatest hatred in new and meaningful ways.
Do you have a favorite exhibit or attraction within the museum? LOX, perhaps?
MG: I may be a bit biased as I think the entirety of the Museum is extraordinary. I’ve had the good fortune to produce two new installations since I arrived in the fall and I’m quite partial to the idea that we are able to present pieces that focus on the individual experience – from My Name Is to Eyewitness – it’s important for me to be able to present the stories of those who experienced the trauma of extreme loss in the Shoah and how we will not allow the memory of millions to pass into stony silence.
I also think Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones is a marvelous oasis at the heart of our Museum that allows a visitor to experience the serenity of our city. And I’m pretty partial to LOX as well, particularly since we can offer a café that combines great modern fare with old world charm.
Any exciting events coming up for the museum?
MG: We’re kicking off our 20th anniversary year in July with a series of new exhibitions and installations that are certain to capture the attention and interest of New Yorkers and tourists alike. The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann, which opens in September 2017, documents how the Nazi responsible for transporting millions of innocent people to death camps mysteriously disappeared after World War II, his daring capture and his historic trail. It contains recently declassified material from the Mossad, and for the first time on view in New York, the glass booth that Eichmann sat in during his trial.
Accompanying this exhibition will be New Dimensions in Testimony, which for the first time in NYC will present hologram technology that will allow for a “virtual conversation” with Holocaust survivors. Eichmann will be at one end of the museum – the man responsible for killing millions – and one of the survivors will be virtually recounting his experiences at the other end, enabling the Museum to not only mourn those who were killed and comfort those who suffered, but that we tell their story with precision, accuracy, and the utmost of respect for human dignity.
When not busy with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, how do you like to spend your free time?
MG: I have three children who keep my wife and I very busy, so really any moment that I’m not at the Museum, I am with my family. It offers an incredible balance and perspective, and helps me focus on what’s important.
Beyond LOX, do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
MG: I have found some of the most wonderful restaurants in Lower Manhattan, so I’ll give you my two favorites – Gigino and Inatteso.
Do you have tickets to any upcoming concerts or events?
I had a chance to see Billy Joel reopen Nassau Coliseum, which was amazing. And I’m looking forward to seeing the Amerike – The Golden Land, a National Yiddish
Theatre Folksbiene musical that will open at the Museum in July.
Finally, Michael, any last words for the kids?
Be present and attentive. We live in challenging times and we need to work together to keep moving forward.