It can be an emotionally draining experiences to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which deals in explicit fashion with the Holocaust. To be fair, the museum is not in any way a showcase of horrors; its curators have been very careful to create a rounded picture of what life was like before, during, and after World War II. But be aware, before you decide to come, that you may need to skip other sightseeing after you leave here to recover a bit.
Your tour will begin in the older section of the museum—an elegant six-sided building by architect Kevin Roche, meant to evoke both the Star of David and the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. The first floor covers life before the war with a sensitively constructed exhibit detailing the various aspects of daily existence. The second floor is dedicated to the war years, and as might be expected, many of the images shown are quite graphic and disturbing. (People with children under 12 would be well-advised to skip this floor by taking the elevator directly from the first floor up to the third.) In addition to photos, objects, and text, the museum is a repository for videos from Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation’s Visual History project, and these vivid accounts of life in the camps and ghettos are the highlight of the museum.
The final floor discusses the Diaspora, with exhibitions on Jewish life in the United States, Israel, and Europe. There are also changing exhibits, and programs of lectures and music. For those looking for a very in-depth experience, there is a self-guided headphone tour (an additional $5) narrated by Meryl Streep and Itzhak Perlman. On-site, too: a kosher cafe.
- Pauline Frommer