New York is a city with an almost endless supply of museums. There are fabulous art museums, great history museums and even a few religious museums. One that is often overlooked is the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue. It has a great location across the street from Central Park between the Museum of New York City and the Metropolitan Museum.
Given the state of security in the world today, you won’t be too surprised to hear that security at this museum is much tighter than at other museums. It is at about the same level as you would expect at the Houses of Parliament in London. You will go through a metal detector and have to empty your pockets. It is a little annoying but the museum is worth the small inconvenience.
Monday through Friday there are guided tours. You can also take the audio guide which I highly recommend, it adds greatly to your experience. There are always special exhibits going on and the best way to know what they are is to check the museums very fine website.
The museum is set on four floors with the temporary exhibits housed on floors one and two and the permanent collection Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey being located on floors three and four.This exhibit is fascination. The history of the Jewish people and their ability to survived the most amazing tragedies and adversity makes for a very interesting look at the history of our world. By the time you have walked through 4000 years of Jewish history you will be able to answer the questions that the exhibit addresses: “How has Judaism been able to thrive for thousands of years across the globe, often in difficult and even tragic circumstances? What constitutes the essence of Jewish identity?”
One of the narrators on the audio guide is Leonard Nimoy, which is interesting since for many people it is hard to disassociate him from his character Mr. Spock. He talks about the tradition of circumcision in the Jewish culture among other things.
The exhibits are very interesting and well done with plenty of additional material to read. You can delve deeper if you have the interest or you can just let your audio guide direct you around. I was very interested, as a Christian, to see how the issue of Jesus would be addressed. He was after all first and foremost Jewish. He is a part of their exhibit on sects and conflict which from the Jewish perspective is the perfect place for such a controversial figure.
I found the section on the three Jewish traditions, Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ashkenazi very interesting. If you have always been drawn to the religious traditions of the world, this museum will be fascinating for you. They also have a very nice Kosher café where you can grab a bite to eat. Allow several hours for your visit here. There are sections that allow children to have a hands on experience.
Admission is $12 for adults and the museum is open every day though, some parts are closed on Saturday.