Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People gets $100m makeover

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    With artifacts ranging from a 15th century Book of Esther to Leonard Cohen’s guitar, the rebranded ANU is the world’s most comprehensive Jewish museum.

    The newly expanded and reimagined ANU – Museum of the Jewish People opened March 10, becoming the world’s only museum dedicated to celebrating and exploring the experiences, accomplishments, and spirit of the Jewish people from biblical times to today.

    Located on the campus of Tel Aviv University, the Diaspora Museum (Beit Hatfutsot) was founded in 1978 and was later renamed The Museum of the Jewish People.

    Its new brand identity adds “ANU” — Hebrew for “we”— to embrace inclusion and reflect the diversity and collective spirit of the Jewish people everywhere, said Museum Board Chair Irina Nevzlin.

    “Every nation deserves a place that tells its story and makes people proud of who they are and their heritage and roots,” said Nevzlin.

    “It is a privilege to realize the transformation of this institution, which now becomes the largest and most comprehensive Jewish museum in the world. The museum will serve as a beacon of Jewish identity and culture, celebrating our unique history and future.”

    The decade-long, $100 million expansion tripled gallery space to 72,000 square feet across four wings spanning three floors. Visitors of all faiths and ages are guided on multimedia, multisensory journey through the 4,000-year history of the Jewish people.

    Reimagined museum experience

    The journey progresses top-down, from the third floor to the first floor.

    Visitors will “meet” a broad spectrum of ordinary Jews on the third-floor Mosaic – Modern Jewish Identity and Culture Wing along with Jewish Hall of Famers in dance, theater, film, TV, music, humor, literature, languages, and modern art.

    ET’s creator, Steven Spielberg, is included in the Mosaic – Modern Jewish Identity and Culture Wing of ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. Photo courtesy of ANU

    The Journey – The Jewish Story Through Time Wing on the second floor traces the roots and history of the Jewish people across the world from biblical times through today – with the help of an interactive map — and the evolution of Jewish faith thought and creativity.

    The first-floor Foundations – A Common Core, A Universal Message Wing explores Jewish practice, beliefs, and traditions, and the Bible and its influence on world culture, especially as it relates to concepts of justice and liberty.

    Among the artifacts and artworks are a Shaddai amulet recovered from inside the wall of an Italian home after World War II; a 15th century Sephardic Book of Esther scroll; and Joseph Bentolila’s letter of rights issued by Napoleon III.

    Contemporary additions to the collection include guitars that were played by Leonard Cohen and Gene Simmons, the chest protector worn by pro baseball catcher-turned World War II spy Moe Berg, and even a lace collar belonging to US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s jabot collar and autobiography at ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. Photo courtesy of ANU

    Scale model of Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca in Toledo, Spain at ANU – Museum of the Jewish People. Photo courtesy of ANU

    Do you have a famous cousin?

    In partnership with Geni.com, the museum developed an app, MJP & Me, that shows if you’re related to any other visitors in the museum in real-time, or to famous Jews across the ages. If these newly discovered relatives are part of the exhibition, the app shows where to find them.

    The new facelift is topped by an open-air rooftop terrace offering views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea.

    “We’ve been looking forward to this day for 10 years,” said Chief Curator Orit Shaham-Gover. “It’s been an intellectual and emotional journey, and we are so thrilled to illustrate the story of the Jewish people in its entirety, from past and present to the future.”

    ANU – Museum of the Jewish People is open daily, including Saturdays, and until 10 pm on Thursdays. Tours are available in several languages. General admission is $16 for adults and children over five; $8 for seniors; and free for children under five and soldiers in uniform.

    About the Author:

    Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.

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