Tuesday 10 May 2011

Day 37: Museum of American Jewish History

I've mostly been catching up on my own work, but sneaked in a visit to the Museum of American Jewish History.  Getting in is quite a big deal.  They have airport level security bag checks.  They made me empty out about an ounce of water that was left over in my gym bottle.  Strange, because most of the exhibits are not of intrinsic value and a lot of it is actually panels of information and stuff like that.  The history of Jews in America is a close parallel for the history of Europeans in general.  The exhibits brought out a lot of questions of freedom.

Religious freedom was a main concern for earlier settlers.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the exhibit echoed what I learned from family: that the US offered the freedom to avoid getting killed, but not a whole lot else.  It has always seemed to me that conditions for immigrants to the US show just how little it takes to be better than death. It seemed like for every wave of immigrants, religion became less of a concern, which led to the ongoing question of preservation of identity.  The exhibits talked about the tensions this posed between personal freedom for individuals (to follow religious rules and customs or not) and the 'freedom' of the group to survive.

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