An American Story, Told at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage By Patti London
If you grew up in Cleveland, a visit to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage is certain to feel nostalgic. The core exhibits evoke a strong sense of time and place unique to Cleveland’s history. You’ll encounter personal stories of struggle, courage and creativity and not a few names and faces you’ll recognize, and maybe are even related to. Beyond reminding native Clevelanders of their rich history, the museum places us in the context of the American narrative. The Maltz Museum opened in 2005 with the mission “to build bridges of tolerance and understanding by sharing Jewish heritage through the lens of the American experience.” This heritage is shared through the museum’s principal state-of-the-art, interactive exhibits, oral histories, photographs, and artifacts. The special temporary exhibition gallery was recently featured on the award-winning news program “CBS Sunday Morning” when the Violins of Hope exhibit was on display. That remarkable exhibit will be traveling to Sarasota, Florida this February, in case you’re in the area. The current 4,000 square foot exhibit makes its home in the special gallery until May 14, 2017. More than 150 black-and-white images are featured in This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition is generously sponsored by Cleveland Browns Foundation; Cleveland Foundation; Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College; Cleveland State University; Milton and Tamar Maltz; PNC Bank; and The Treu-Mart Fund. This Light of Ours features works by nine activist photographers who documented the clash between institutionalized discrimination and determined resistance by activists and volunteers in the 1960s. “The power of these photographs that helped catapult long-existing inequities into the national consciousness is undeniable,” asserts Maltz Museum executive director Ellen Rudolph. “Pain, fear and hope—the emotions and momentum fueling the movement—are palpable in the images.” The Maltz Museum included related material about racial division today. “This exhibition is very timely,” says Museum co-founder Milton Maltz, noting its relevance to recent shootings, riots, vigils and protests in Baltimore, Charleston, Cleveland, Dallas and Milwaukee. “Ordinary people risked everything to fight for equality in the segregated South of the 1960s. The question this exhibition asks is, 50 years later, who will take up the challenge to right inequities that continue to spark anger across this country? How can we heal this open wound of racial division in America?” This Light of Ours includes content related to Northeast Ohio’s own turmoil and triumphs at this critical moment in American history. “Cleveland experienced the Hough uprising of 1966 and the long struggle to desegregate Cleveland's public schools,” notes the Museum’s education director, Jeffery Allen. “The region also witnessed the 1967 election of Carl Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city and the groundbreaking role played by his brother, Louis, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Exhibition-related programming will be tied into community-wide commemorations of these milestones, examining their legacy in light of current events.” The Maltz Museum is proud to be a partner in those commemorations. For details, visit stokes50cle.com. In addition to the special temporary exhibition and the core exhibits presenting inspiring stories of Jewish immigrants and contemporary heroes, the Museum includes The Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery – a light-filled gallery containing an internationally-recognized collection of Judaica. Established in 1950 by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver in honor of The Temple’s 100th anniversary, the collection includes ritual objects, sacred books and scrolls and fine art from all over the world. It is the fourth oldest museum of Judaica in the United States. Tours of the collection are weekly, each Thursday at 2pm. No reservations are necessary. The Museum shop should not be missed at the end of your visit. The store is a terrific resource for unique gifts all year, but especially for the holidays. This winter you’ll find beautifully crafted, artisan-made items like the Western Wall Dreidel from the Gary Rosenthal Collection. The store has an extensive selection of books, DVD’s, distinctive toys and an exceptional collection of jewelry and accessories. Members receive a 10% discount and there’s no Museum admission fee if you only have time to stop by for some quick shopping. Knowing that all proceeds go to support the Museum is yet another reason to shop here often. An article on the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage would not be complete without mentioning the essay contest which has elicited 20,000 submissions since its inception. For the past eight years, the Maltz Museum has sponsored the Stop the Hate® Youth Speak Out essay competition. Students compete for $100,000 in scholarships, awards and anti-bias grants. The contest this year encourages Northeast Ohio students to draw inspiration from Elie Wiesel’s human rights legacy: In 500 words or less, share an incident when you or someone you know was treated unfairly or you treated someone unfairly based on race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, etc. Why was this judgment wrong? How did the experience affect you? What have you done and what will you do to help end intolerance and create a more inclusive community? “This competition reinforces the responsibility of the individual to effect positive change and celebrates young leaders who are ready to put their vision into action,” says education director Jeffery Allen. The Stop the Hate® Youth Speak Out contest is open to Northeast Ohio 6-12th graders. Entries are due Jan. 6, 2017, for grades 6-10 and Jan. 20, 2017, for grades 11-12. Twenty-five finalists will appear at the final judging and public awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 6pm at The Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center in University Circle, affording the public a chance to hear students from different corners of the region take a stand against the injustices they see around them. Teachers are invited to implement Stop the Hate® as a classroom project. For examples of winning essays, related Museum tours and complete rules, visit maltzmuseum.org/stop-the-hate. The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage celebrates culture and identity to encourage understanding and promote a greater appreciation of Jewish heritage and the diversity of the human experience. Through telling the American Story, the Maltz acts as a vehicle of connection, bridging cultural divides. Although visitors view history through a Jewish lens, the recognizable parallels to all of our immigrant stories is inevitable. This holiday season is a great time to visit the Museum, including the special exhibit, This Light of Ours, and attend thought-provoking programs with your family. Docent-led tours of This Light of Ours are available Tuesdays and Sundays at 2pm with regular Museum admission, $12 adults, $10 seniors (60+) and students, $5 youth (5-11) and free for Maltz Museum Members and children under 5. Museum hours are Tuesday – Sunday, 11am-5pm, Wednesday, 11am-9pm. The Museum is closed Mondays. For more information, visit maltzmuseum.org and follow them on Twitter @maltzmuseum and @stopthehateUS. Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage 2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood 216.593.0575 maltzmuseum.org

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