Grand Opening Chanukah 2004
WORLD’S FIRST JEWISH CHILDREN’S MUSEUM MARKS GRAND OPENING ON FIRST NIGHT OF CHANUKAH
“Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Governor George Pataki attended dedication and ribbon-cutting of 50,000 square foot, $30 million facility committed to promoting tolerance by introducing Jewish life to children of all backgrounds.”
Brooklyn, NY; May 30, 2005 – After a decade of careful planning, the Jewish Children’s Museum had it’s grand opening last December, and recently opened to the public in April. Numerous dignitaries, including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, along with children from many backgrounds and cultures, attended the dedication, ribbon-cutting, and giant menorah-lighting ceremony, last December. Immediately following the ceremony, the dignitaries accompanied the children, who came from a diverse sampling of area schools, including Brooklyn Tabernacle, P.S. 189 in Crown Heights, Yavneh Academy in Paramus, N.J., and Oholei Torah and Beth Rivkah both in Crown Heights, on a tour of the exhibits.
The only museum of its kind in the world, the 7-story Jewish Children’s Museum is designed to introduce Jewish culture, history and traditions to children of all backgrounds. State-of-the-art technology and a hands-on approach to learning are used in more than 80 interactive exhibits to engage, entertain and educate elementary school age children and their parents and teachers. By inspiring visitors to gain an increased
interest in and positive perspective on Jewish life, the museum is helping to shatter stereotypes and misconceptions and foster tolerance and understanding among all people. It is this mission that makes the museum an extremely fitting memorial to Ari Halberstam, the Brooklyn-born and raised teenager who was killed by a Lebanese terrorist on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994.
Located in the heart of Brooklyn on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights, an ethnically diverse neighborhood that in the past has seen its share of racial tension and conflict, the museum takes its outreach role seriously. Tours and materials are crafted to appeal to a wide range of children-especially groups of students from the New York City public schools and out-of-town visitors. In addition, the museum’s exhibits explore the diversity that exists within the world’s Jewish community.
According to Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, the museum’s executive director, “The Jewish Children’s Museum is the best kind of hands-on education- a place where kids will have so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re learning. It is our hope that if we can correct some of the misunderstandings that people-including Jews- have about other Jews and Jewish life, we can play an important role in shaping a more peaceful, tolerant society. This, then, would be a truly fitting memorial to Ari Halberstam who was murdered simply because of his religious and ethnic background.”
The museum itself is a marvel of multi-media technology, enabling children to use all of their senses as they explore and discover. Among the highlights are:
• A working television newsroom where children can record segments on the story of Chanukah.
• A giant Sabbath dinner table to walk on and explore that includes a challah to climb in and matzoh ball shaped computers that print Jewish recipes from around the world.
• A scaled down kosher supermarket, complete with working checkout scanners and kitchen with talking refrigerator where children can role play as they explore Jewish dietary laws.
• A game-show studio where visitors can play games on Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
• A six-hole outdoor miniature gold course that introduces Jewish life cycle events.
• Crafts workshops in which visitors can create arts-and-crafts projects to take home.
The 50,000 square foot, fully-wired facility was designed by the award-winning architecture firm of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, which has completed more than 300 projects, including the American Museum of the Moving Image and projects for the Guggenheim Museum, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the New York Public Library. The façade features the largest known photomosaic, a 20’ x 30’ picture of a child created with more than 1400 images of children. A stunning 12-foot high Chanukah dreidel graces the museum’s plaza.
A project of Tzivos Hashem, one of the world’s largest and most successful Jewish children’s organizations, the museum is the result of the
collaboration of a team of educators, designers, engineers and professionals, including noted museum consultant Paul Rosenthal, who has developed the text and programs for he Liberty Museum at the Statue of Liberty, the Barnum Museum and many others. As such it is a resource and model, nationally and internationally, for interactive education on Jewish themes.
According to Emma F. Mosley and Edith Medina, the educational director and assistant director of the Salvation Army Day Care Center in Brooklyn, “We are happy to see a museum that is a hands-on multi-cultural teaching/learning center. We think it’s excellent!”
Unlike other museums that shut down after hours, the Jewish Children’s Museum continues to serve as a community center, offering after-school enrichment classes and special programs. The ground floor of the building, which can be accessed from a separate entrance, features a lending library, fully-equipped computer labs and crafts workshops.
Tickets are $10. For details and to purchase tickets, visit www.jcm.museum/tickets.