“Dad, if our kitchen blender is on display in a museum case, don’t you think its time to buy a new one?” Robin and I laughed at our daughter’s question. Our family was in the middle of visiting the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
In front of us was a display depicting the post-war movement of Jews into suburban America. We were standing in a “typical” kitchen from those years. Robin commented that it looked and felt familiar, and, sure enough, there on the counter was a blender, just like our “old one.”
Next was a section on Jewish summer camps. While the girls had fun reminiscing about their childhood Camp Ramah experiences, I looked up and saw pictures of the “old” Camp Ramah I went to back in the 1960’s. We turned the corner to see the next display, and again, objects and event descriptions brought out personal, vivid memories. When you visit the museum, I’m sure you’ll have this same sensation.
The American Jewish History museum tells our story. It depicts the acculturation, resilience, challenges, and creativity of 357 years of American Jewish life beginning with our immigrant ancestors and continuing through us to this day. They did it very well. I enjoyed visiting the museum with my family. I also left with this question.
If I’m old enough to see some of my memories exhibited in a museum, am I still young enough to learn from them? Yes I am. So here’s what I learned.
To be an American Jew is a unique privilege. We dare not take it for granted. We have the responsibility to be sure being Jewish in America means something, represents something, and honors something. We can debate what, but we can’t choose nothing – because what happens today is what we, and possibly others, will remember tomorrow.