Yeshiva University News » Museum

In New Book, YU Historian Imagines American Judaism If the Holocaust Never Happened

On March 30, Dr. Jeffrey Gurock, the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University, will launch his new book, The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry 1938-1967 (Rutgers University Press) at the Yeshiva University Museum in a nationally-televised event sponsored by the Museum, the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and the American Jewish Historical Society.


In his new book, YU historian Dr. Jeffrey Gurock imagines American Jewish history if the Holocaust had never happened.

In the book, Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had not occurred and forces readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews could have been harder than it actually was. YU News sat down with Gurock to discuss some of the most intriguing moments in that period of history, both real and imagined, and their impact on the American Judaism of today.

What inspired you to write this book and how does it fit into the emerging academic field of counterfactual history? Read the rest of this entry…

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Yeshiva University and Jewish Publication Society Celebrate Launch of Outside the Bible with Evening of Discussion

On December 3, Yeshiva University and the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) celebrated the publication of Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture (JPS, December 2013) at a special Hanukkah event at the Yeshiva University Museum.

Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, left, and Dr. Alex Jassen discuss major themes in Outside the Bible.

Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, left, and Dr. Alex Jassen discuss major themes in Outside the Bible.

“I think it is a remarkable tribute to this University that two of our three lead editors on this monumental 12-year, 70-scholar project serve on the faculty here, as do several other notable contributors,” said Rabbi Barry Schwartz, director of JPS, as he introduced the evening, which began with a communal candlelighting ceremony led by YU President Richard M. Joel to mark the seventh night of Hanukkah.

“We have to advance earnest and meaningful Jewish literacy, and this book demonstrates so much the beauty and importance that lies beyond the basics,” said President Joel. “A reading of these volumes—filled with apocalyptic visions and prophecies, folktales and legends, collections and sayings, laws and rules of conduct, commentaries and ancient prayers—builds a more colorful and textured understanding of our Jewish history and Jewish story.”

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One of the Sukkah City entries, “In Tension” by SO-IL, on display at the YU Museum.

Sep 28, 2010 — On Monday, September 27, the Yeshiva University Museum, together with the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University and YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, hosted “Judaism and Sacred Space,” a panel discussing Jewish narrative, legal and thinking approaches to sacred space.

Inspired by Sukkah City, a competition that received over 600 submissions for architecturally innovative sukkot, the panel featured three scholars from distinct fields: Dr. Jill Katz, adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology at Yeshiva University; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, YU Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future; and Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Chair of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, rabbi of the Bronfman Center and university chaplain of NYU, moderated the panel.

Dr. Schacter began with theological perspectives on Jewish sacred spaces. Starting with the time of the Talmud, he presented two opposite interpretations of physical sanctity developed: one as permanent and inherent to the space by divine investment, and the other as temporary sacredness contingent on human action.

While Dr. Schacter provided historical and contextual grounding, Dr. Katz defined sacred space anthropologically and archaeologically, with features such as increasing exclusivity, ritual sanctification areas, and high concentrations of garments and symbols. According to Dr. Katz, the sukkah is thus both an interpretation of, and a response to, those defined guidelines of sacred space, as one not reserved for the elite but rather open to all. The sukkah, she pointed out, does not symbolize or gratify material wealth as other religious spaces do, a concept embraced by a Sukkah City competitor who designed a sukkah clad with cardboard signs bought from the homeless.

Dr. Schiffman detailed the religious development of sukkot from pilgrimage-related desert shelters to sacred and symbolic spatial representations of the Temple, after the latter’s destruction led to an adoption of sukkot as replacements.

Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum, said the panel connected relevant cultural occurrences to the museum’s particular mission, studying “how Jewish art and culture in their different forms across time reflect on Judaism.” He also pointed to the intersection between individualism and communal commitment, a popular theme during the open question-and-answer session following the scholars’ presentations.

“The panel raised important issues,” said audience member David Pruwer, visiting from London. “It was interesting to see different perspectives from different disciplines all focused on the same topic.” Rabbi Sarna, the moderator, echoed the significance of the panel: “bridging the gap between art and religion is one of the most important conversations of today.”


Apr 15, 2009 — A handful of Yeshiva University’s most talented student exhibited their artwork at the YU Museum on March 22 when the University held a celebration of student and faculty creativity at the venue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. It was the first time student work was on display there.

Elliot Kaminetzky, a psychology major at Yeshiva College, was very excited to see his three paintings—portraits of his father and sister, and a landscape in the style of Cezanne—in a public setting. “I was trying to show the contrast of modernity and tradition in the portrait of my father studying,” Kaminetzky said.

Rivka Siegel, a studio art major who plans to be an illustrator, exhibited an oil painting of a soldier wearing tefillin and a print on a similar subject—pieces about “prayer and war,” she said.

Curated by faculty members Susan Gardner and Traci Tullius, the exhibit also included the work of Stern students Rebecca Cinnamon, Gila Romanoff, Malke Freifeld, Sara Levit, Ruthie Matanky, Kaley Wajcman, Raquel Laban, Rachel Fried, Revital Avisar and Rebecca Palgon, and Yeshiva College students Elliot Kaminetzky and Chezi Gerin.

The exhibit highlighted the close ties that the museum is forging with the students’ classroom experience under the leadership of Jacob Wisse, associate professor of art history at Stern College for Women who was appointed director of the museum in January. “We are here to celebrate the presence of the University community at the museum, and the commitment of the museum to demonstrating and presenting the mission of YU,” Wisse said.

The recently tenured associate professor of art history has a background in museum education and curatorial work. Through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wisse earned a Curatorial Studies Certificate and was twice awarded its Theodore Rousseau Curatorial Fellowship. He introduced courses at Stern that use exhibitions and museum collections to complement the classroom experience, including a summer program in Florence on the art and culture of the Renaissance.

“We may serve as a showpiece for musical, literary and artistic talent but even more essentially as a place where some of these talents can be experimented through innovating exhibitions, educational programs and by brining together the YU community in the best spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration,” Wisse told the audience gathered at the museum event.

Morton Lowengrub, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, concurred. “This is the cultural arm of the University and an important face to the outside world,” he said.

The event—which was the inspiration of Norman Adler, University professor of psychology—featured a reading by Joanne Jacobson, professor of English at Yeshiva College, from her recently published memoir, Hunger Artist: A Suburban Childhood. Peninnah Scram, professor of speech and drama at Stern College and an accomplished storyteller, read a short story by John Updike titled Women and Museums.

The audience was also treated to performances by the Stern Music Ensemble, featuring David Glaser, professor of music, on viola da gumba; Marcia Young, director of performance studies, on Baroque triple harp; students Sarit Bendavid and Reena Ribalt on flute; and Hadassa Klerman on recorder.


David Stern, Bryant Park, 2008, oil on cotton, 58 x 75 inches

Nov 7, 2008 — Yeshiva University Museum is pleased to announce a panel discussion “Figuration, Abstraction and the Spiritual” featuring the exhibition “David Stern: The American Years 1995-2008″ on November 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm. The curator of the traveling exhibition, Karen Wilkin, will introduce and moderate a panel including the artist, David Stern, and the art critic Lance Esplund, as well as noted New York artists Archie Rand and Jill Nathanson. The panel will discuss the visual languages inventive present day artists employ to embody spiritual content in wholly contemporary terms.

“David Stern: The American Years 1995-2008,” co-curated by Karen Wilkin and Reba Wulkan is on view through February 8, 2009 at Yeshiva University Museum. The fifty-seven paintings and drawings on view demonstrate shifts in form and content in Stern’s work since the artist moved to New York from Germany in 1995. His forceful and energetic canvases, covered in inches-thick layers of paint, convey the dizzying, exciting, and sometimes sinister experience of the modern metropolis. Stern has referred to himself as an “action painter,” echoing the artistic legacies of New York School painters Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Yet his captivating human forms—by turns tragic, grotesque, and vulnerable—reach further back to histories of portraiture.

Concurrent with its showing at Yeshiva University Museum, “David Stern: The American Years 1995-2008″ will be on view at the Alexandre Hogue Gallery of the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma from October 30 through November 28, 2008. The exhibition will travel to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina from October through December 2010; and it will continue to travel nationally until 2012.

The exhibition is under the patronage of the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Horst Freitag. It is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.
The accompanying catalogue is fully illustrated and features an interview by Karen Wilkin and an essay by noted art critic Lance Esplund.

David Stern was born in 1956 in Essen, Germany. He attended art school in both Dortmund (1975-79) and Dusseldorf (1980-82). He immigrated to New York in 1995, and has exhibited widely in the US and Germany since then. His work can be found in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Dresdner Bank (Cologne, Germany), and the Arkansas Art Center (Little Rock).

Click to view David Stern Gallery


Aug 26, 2008 — The Yeshiva University Museum provides the only North American venue for an unusually significant exhibition of Medieval gold and silver jewelry, tableware, and rare coins discovered just a decade ago concealed within the foundation of a 12th-century house in Erfurt, Germany, a historic center of Ashkenazi Jewry.

The treasure, which scholars believe was buried by a Jewish merchant or moneylender during anti-Semitic violence, was discovered by archeologists during an excavation in the Medieval Jewish quarter of the city.

Carefully hidden under the wall of a private home’s stone cellar were over 3,000 silver coins, 14 silver ingots, and over 600 pieces of jewelry.

“Erfurt: Jewish Treasures from Medieval Ashkenaz,” on view September 8–February 9, features 167 objects including a Jewish wedding ring in the shape of a tower, unique silver drinking vessels, coins, elaborate belt buckles, and a variety of garment accessories, all dating from the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

The exhibition offers a glimpse into Jewish life and culture in medieval Europe before the Black Death and anti-Jewish persecutions decimated this small but thriving population in 1349.

An international tour will follow with stops at the Wallace Collection (London) and Beth Hatefutsoth (Tel Aviv), before the objects go on permanent display in Erfurt’s 11th-century synagogue in the fall of 2009.

Located approximately 70 miles southwest of Kassel, Erfurt is the capital city of the central German region of Thuringia. The vast number of coins and ingots found among the treasure hoard dem onstrate Erfurt’s status as a center for trade and commerce in medi eval Germany. The Jewish quarter of the city was located on the banks of the Gera River, crucial to regional trade.

Records show that Jews prospered in Erfurt as early as the 9th century, peacefully coexisting there with other groups until the 14th century. At this time, bur geoning anti-Semitism erupted into violence, and Jews were targeted as scapegoats for perceived social and economic ills.

Tragically, the entire Jewish community of Erfurt was expelled or murdered at the height of the Bubonic Plague (or Black Death) in 1349, when Jews were blamed for spreading the disease.

The exhibition includes a three-dimensional model of the city’s synagogue during the 12th century, an architectural model of a Medieval synagogue, a 16th-century map of Erfurt, photographs of important sites, and facsimiles of original manuscripts.

Exhibition highlights include a hand-crafted gold Jewish wedding ring from the early 14th century, one of very few Medieval Ashkenazi wedding rings in existence. Well-preserved artifacts from this period are extremely rare, as jewelry was often melted down when it went it was deemed out of style. This ring features an ornate, miniature version of a gothic tower and six engraved Hebrew letters spelling out mazal tov, meaning “good luck,” written on the tower’s roof.

Scholars have interpreted the tower as symbolizing the Temple of Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Jewish tradition still mandates that wedding bands be made of plain gold without the addition of stones.

The silver double cups housed the jewelry found in the treasure and are noteworthy for their colorful enameled images from Aesop’s fables of The Fox and the Eagle and The Fox and the Raven. Additional rarities include a set of eight silver cups designed to fit inside each other, dozens of belt buckles and garment appliqués, a cosmetic set, and seven brooches.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation, with additional funds from the David Berg Foundation and Lufthansa.

A public symposium, “Treasured Possessions: Jews and Christians in a Medieval City,” co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yeshiva University Museum, will be held November 5–6.


Apr 5, 2008 — Momenta String Quartet, the first ensemble-in-residence at Yeshiva University, performed the world premiere of composer David Glaser’s Kinesis at a concert at the Yeshiva University Museum on Wednesday, April 2, 2008. Glaser is associate professor of music at Stern College for Women.

Celebrated for its eclectic programming, the Momenta Quartet includes members Annaliesa Place and Miranda Cuckson, both on violin, Joanne Lin on cello, and Stephanie Griffin on viola. The quartet is spending a year each at both the Beren and Wilf campuses, where they give readings of works composed by music majors in the schools’ composition classes, and perform and answer students’ questions in music classes.

The evening’s program encompassed a wide range of music by Jewish composers, including John Zorn’s Kol Nidre, Ursula Mamlok’s Two Bagatelles, Morton Feldman’s Structures, and Alfred Schnittke’s String Quartet #2.

Glaser’s piece was written especially for the members of the quartet and guest artist Oren Fader on guitar.

“As with most of my recent music, the structure of Kinesis is shaped by the particular sonic characteristics of the ensemble for which it was written,” Glaser said.

“I usually try to find the common ground among the instruments in order to create a unified ensemble. There are times in this piece where the members of the quartet defer to the guitar, using various types of pizzicato, or where a gesture is shared by all the instruments. But as often as not the quartet and guitar are treated as distinct entities.”

Glaser was recently selected by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University to receive a 2007 Fromm Commission Award, with a prize of $10,000. In 2005, he won an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his body of work.


May 1, 2007 — Yeshiva University Museum’s award-winning exhibit, “A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry,” recently garnered another accolade. The exhibit, which drew praise from The New York Times and Vogue, recently won the 2007 Richard Martin Award for Excellence in the Exhibition of Costume, presented by the Costume Society of America.

David Newell, chair of the award committee, said the decision to give the award to the YU Museum was unanimous. “This important piece of history is often lost behind the hype and splash of new collections or the beauty and elegance of vintage fashions,” said Mr. Newell. “It was a very good thing to have the story highlighted and presented with such insight and accessibility.”

The exhibit was recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which designated “A Perfect Fit” as part of the We the People Initiative, awarding the museum a $300,000 grant. The exhibition also received kudos for its catalogue, which was placed second in the American Association of Museum’s annual Publication Design Competition, rivaling the most prestigious institutions in the United States.

“A Perfect Fit” documented the contributions of American Jews in the fashion industry starting in the 1860’s, as a wave of Jewish immigrants made their mark at the same time that manufacturing advances transformed the fashion landscape. Over the next century, from the demand for uniforms during the Civil War to the boom of consumer goods after World War II, Jewish families occupied every strata of the fashion world: peddlers, designers, manufacturers, and industry moguls.

To learn more about “A Perfect Fit” and Jews in the fashion industry, please visit:

Yeshiva University Museum
The New York Times


Joanne Jacobson, professor of English at Yeshiva College, called 'The Goldbergs' "a shared media experience for an older generation of American Jews."

Apr 24, 2006 — The more than 225 people at the sold-out program, “The Legacy of The Goldbergs,” came to the Center for Jewish History March 23 to visit their favorite, and oldest, Jewish mother—Molly Goldberg, the central character of the radio and TV show The Goldbergs, which ran from 1929 to 1956.

The event, sponsored by Yeshiva College and the American Jewish Historical Society, brought Molly back to life for the audience, most of whom grew up with her.

“Molly Goldberg was the most familiar Jewish character to American audiences, derived from American Yiddish popular culture,” said J. Hoberman, senior film critic for The Village Voice, in his keynote address. “She became the prototype of the American Jewish mother.”

Actress Gertrude Berg invented and played the character of Molly, wrote most of the more than 5,000 episodes, and produced the sitcom. She capitalized on the Molly Goldberg phenomenon with short stories, stage plays, a feature film, and even a cookbook.

“She was a pioneer in product placements, even before Johnny Carson,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who showed a clip of a documentary she is making about the life of Ms. Berg.

“The show had as many Jewish as non-Jewish fans all over America,” Ms. Kempner said. “It was second only to Amos and Andy in popularity during radio’s Golden Period, before the advent of television.”

“The Legacy of The Goldbergs” included screenings of old TV episodes and a reenactment of a radio episode by a cast of actors. Academics—including Joanne Jacobson, PhD, professor of English at Yeshiva College—weighed in on the significance of the show in American popular culture, discussing topics such as Jewish assimilation, life in the suburbs, and the Jewish mother.

Molly’s legacy was brought fittingly back to life at the conclusion of the program, when guests were greeted with plates laden with gefilte fish and smoked salmon sandwiches, made from The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook.

The event commemorated the 50th anniversary of the program’s finale and was cosponsored by the Yeshiva University Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Jewish Women’s Archive.


Dec 26, 2005 — Yeshiva University Museum is featuring A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry 1860-1960. By exploring such themes as technology, industry, labor, immigration, Jewish and popular culture, this groundbreaking exhibition traces the early thread of 19th century Jewish immigrants seeking success in America interlaced with one hundred years of fashion from 1860-1960.

Click here to see images from the exhibit.

Paying homage to stellar household names like Levi Strauss, Hickey-Freeman, Hart, Schaffner & Marx, Nettie Rosenstein, Adrian, Hattie Carnegie, Bloomingdales, Leslie Fay, Anne Klein, Cole of California and countless others, this interdisciplinary exhibition tracks the development and growth of the garment industry side-by-side with the development of a nation. From the early and urgent need to clothe a nation at war in the 1860’s to the post- WWII era of American suburban life, A Perfect Fit documents this history through an exhibition, public programming, and an accompanying catalogue.

The very fabric of American culture cannot be fully understood without an appreciation of the garment industry. To understand the “rag” trade, we must appreciate the role the American Jew has played in designing, altering and literally stitching together the whole business.

German and Central European Jewish immigrants to America around the mid 19th century arrived on the scene with relevant business experience and skills just as garment production was passing from a proto-industrial phase to a more advanced stage of manufacture. In the early twentieth-century a largely Eastern European immigrant workforce powered the garment trades. In 1917, social commentator David Levinsky credited these immigrants with the creation of American style.

A color catalogue will accompany this exhibition and will embody the glamour and beauty of American fashion as well as the industrial forces driving the story of garment manufacture.

A wide array of public programs, targeting a broad and multiage audience, will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition. Many of the programs are being developed in cooperation with other cultural partners, including the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Workmen’s Circle, CityLore and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and The National Center for Jewish Film. Planned programs include:

All in a Days Work: Sharing Stories of the Garment Industry – brings in designers, fabric cutters, seamstresses, tailors and retailers to give narratives of their personal experiences in the industry.
Film series highlighting feature films and documentaries about the era.
Readings and Reviews, a series bringing in contemporary authors who bring different perspectives of the immigrant experience in the garment industry.
Bagels and Books will promote informed, lively discussions of exhibition themes around immigration, industrialization, fashion and labor.
Walking tours and showroom tours in the garment district are also planned.
Demonstrations and studio workshops will illustrate pattern making/sewing and printing, painting, drawing on surface treatments allowing visitors to embellish fabric.

The museum is located at 15 West 16th Street, in New York City and is open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm. For more information call 212-294-8330 or go to The exhibit is open through March 31.