Last week, we opened our newest special exhibition, The Other Promised Land: Vacationing, Identity, and the Jewish-American Dream , an exploration of the tradition of Jewish vacationing. Here is an excerpt from the remarks I delivered at the opening:
When my colleagues, Ivy Barsky and Lou Levine, and I first saw this exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Maryland last fall, we were immediately struck by the nostalgia that swept over us. We recognized the family photos and familiar souvenirs, although none of us had ever seen what is my favorite artifact in the exhibition – the devices that women placed on their high heels to allow them to walk in relative safety on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. This exhibition, which looks at Jewish vacationing from the 1890s to the present, is a wonderful complement to our Core Exhibition, which examines Jewish history in the context of the 20th century. It was easy to envision The Other Promised Land in our gallery, with its wonderful balance of nostalgia, and history.Come by and visit!
It is particularly interesting and disturbing to see how anti-Semitism in its subtle and not-so-subtle forms, forced Jews to create their own Jewish vacation destinations -- an irony for those new Jewish immigrants who left behind the bitter experience of persecution to come to this country believing that they would be welcomed with open arms.
Some might argue that this exhibition presents somewhat lighter fare than we normally provide, and this is true. But if you look closely, your will see that this exhibition tells a story that runs parallel, and in some ways, defines the Jewish American experience in ways that are both heartwarming and provocative.
My personal family vacation experiences tended to be more rustic, indeed primitive, than what is featured here, but my wife Judy and her family have great memories of the Catskills. Judy’s dad, the legendary basketball referee, Lou Eisenstein, officiated at the Morry Stokes game at Kutschers every year, and Judy’s sister met her husband, in the country one summer, where he was serving as a waiter.
As you walk through the exhibition, some of you will reminisce and think of the people you met on those summer get-aways – think about that stolen kiss, your first dance, the endless car ride sitting next to your sister, demanding to know of your parents: Are we there yet? Maybe you’ll be inspired to google those friends you made or even just smile quietly to yourself as you think about what could have been.
We are very pleased to present this exhibition, and we are proud of our good judgment in deciding to bring it here, but we cannot claim credit for its ingenious conception or its beautiful design. For the inspired idea and consummate execution, we are most grateful to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.