April 25, 2022

After Two Year Pandemic Pause, The Weitzman Reopens with Free Admission; Exhibition by Artist Jonathan Horowitz; Outdoor Sculpture by Deborah Kass; Artifacts from Synagogue Hostage Crisis

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (April 25, 2022) – Philadelphia’s Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History (The Weitzman) announces that it will reopen its building to visitors on May 13 — with four exciting and timely new installations and exhibits.

The Museum will welcome the public back with:

  • A transformative new art exhibition organized by Jonathan Horowitz that explores the significant changes America has experienced since 2020 and issues it has been grappling with for decades
  • Deborah Kass’s monumental yellow “OY/YO” sculpture on Independence Mall
  • Two artifacts from the Jan. 15th hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas that highlight rising antisemitism
  • Special installation on Military Nursing During WWII
  • Free admission for the near future

The Weitzman – the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience – will be open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., starting May 13, with a Members’ preview May 6, 7, and 8. Advance reservations are recommended; COVID safety protocols will be in place and regularly updated on the Museum’s website.

The Weitzman’s galleries closed in March 2020 when state and city officials implemented temporary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. In that time, the Museum appointed a new CEO, emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings, eliminated its debt, renamed itself in honor of shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, and created an endowment to ensure its future.

Operating virtually for the past two years expanded The Weitzman’s reach and reputation, serving millions through its robust livestream programming and online content.

“We’re reopening The Weitzman with a bright future ahead of us,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, The Weitzman’s President and CEO. “After operating virtually, we can’t wait to welcome visitors through our doors once again. Much has changed in our society and our world over the last two years, for both Jews and non-Jews, and we stand ready to do what we do best: educate, interpret, question, and inspire.”

Special Exhibition: The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz
May 2022 – December 2022

“The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz” explores the transformative changes America has experienced since 2020 and addresses antisemitism, racial violence, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and more. It offers new perspectives on history and raises – but does not answer – questions related to themes, ideas, and events found in The Weitzman’s core exhibition, which interprets over 360 years of American Jewish life.

Horowitz, an artist who is known for incorporating social issues into his practice, has designed a series of installations that include key works from his oeuvre and significant works by renowned artists across generations. In addition to Horowitz, artists featured include Adrian Piper, Ben Shahn, Tabboo!, Jenny Holzer, Elizabeth Catlett, Collier Schorr, Aya Brown, Malaquías Montoya, and Nicholas Galanin. An installation of commissioned posters by contemporary artists will include works by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Christine Sun Kim, Jeffrey Gibson, Kim Gordon and Jason Smith, Sable Elyse Smith, and many others.

Works from the Exhibition include:

  • Horowitz’s large-scale “Untitled (August 23, 2017–February 18, 2018, Charlottesville, VA)” depicts the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee  as it appeared covered by a black tarp after August 2017’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Malaquías Montoya’s “Cristobal Colón” lithograph addresses colonialism’s devastating impact on Indigenous peoples.
  • Horowitz’s “Pink Curve” is a hybrid of an Elsworth Kelly sculpture and the badge that homosexual men were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
  • Tabboo!’s “Tree of Life” memorialize the victims of the antisemitic mass shooting that took place at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the United States.
  • Horowitz’s “Power” replicates the menu of skin tone options for the raised fist emoji.
  • Three posters by Aya Brown feature intricate drawings of Black female essential workers. These were initially installed on bus shelters throughout Brooklyn, New York.
  • Horowitz’s glitter painting “Rainbow American Flag for Jasper in the Style of the Artist’s Boyfriend” appropriates both the work of Jasper Johns and that of Horowitz’s partner, Rob Pruitt, who is known for his glitter paintings of panda bears.

“‘The Future Will Follow The Past’ builds on the Museum’s practice of inviting artists and creatives to reflect on and reinterpret our content,” said Dr. Josh Perelman, Chief Curator and director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, who has overseen the three major reopening exhibitions and installations. “Like The Weitzman itself, Horowitz’s installations emphasize how the story of Jewish life in America can serve as a starting point for exploring our connections and differences, participating in dialogue and debate, and sharing our lives and our dreams.”

As a “visual commentary,” Horowitz’s installations engage with the core exhibition’s major themes – including immigration and adaptation, tradition and change, and advocacy and service – and respond to the current intensification of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, and other forms of bigotry. Relevant, reflective, and surprising, they bring fresh, new layers of meaning to the experience of museum goers. Visitors will encounter them throughout the Museum, and each floor includes at least one large-scale work. A QR code-based audio tour featuring Horowitz, Erica Brown, Vice Provost and Inaugural Director of Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership at Yeshiva University, , and Beth Wenger, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies/Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of History, will accompany the special exhibition. A new Museum map will also be available.

Several works from Horowitz’s “We Fight to Build a Free World” exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, originally scheduled to open in March 2020, are also part of this exhibition. Horowitz is creating a new work about voting rights for the exhibition and new editions of his signature pieces, Power and Pink Curve.

Outdoor Installation: “OY/YO” by Deborah Kass

May 2022 – May 2023 (at least)

The Weitzman will install Brooklyn-based artist Deborah Kass’ monumental “OY/YO” sculpture on its grounds, at 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall, for the next 12 months. The bright yellow aluminum statue is creative word play using just two letters, with several meanings. One side says “YO,” referencing the attention-getting phrase used throughout Philly, as well as “I” in Spanish, while the other side reads “OY,” a popular Yiddish phrase used in Jewish and American culture.

At 8-feet tall, 16-feet wide, and 5-feet deep, “OY” will become part of Old City’s cultural fabric and a destination for tourists and locals alike. Kass first created “OY” as a painting in 2011 and, in 2015, turned it into a sculpture that sat in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2015.

“I created OY/YO thinking about the American promise of equality and fairness and our responsibilities to make the country a better place for all,” says Kass. “With hate and division now on the rise, it is urgent to see our commonalities, what we share, and what brings us together.”

Colleyville Synagogue Special Exhibition
April 2022 – April 2023 (at least)

Two artifacts that are crucial to the story of the January 15th hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas have been donated to The Weitzman.

Initially, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed the British-Pakistani stranger into the suburban synagogue and made him a cup of tea. Approximately 45 minutes into the Saturday morning service during the Amidah, the armed man took the Rabbi and three congregants hostage. After 11 terrifying hours, the hostages decided that it was time to escape their captor and Rabbi Cytron-Walker threw a chair at him, enabling the Rabbi and two remaining hostages to escape unharmed.

The tea cup and chair are now part of the Weitzman’s artifact collection, and will be displayed on the Museum’s ground floor, where all visitors begin their experience.

The new exhibit puts the spotlight on antisemitism and the increasing danger that Jews face in America. Jonathan Sarna, chief historian at The Weitzman and preeminent American Jewish historian, and Dr. Josh Perelman, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, interviewed Rabbi Cytron-Walker and three other hostages for a video that will accompany and contextualize the artifacts. The display will remain on view at the Weitzman for at least one year.

Special Exhibition: Military Nursing During WWII

A special exhibition on the Museum’s Concourse, curated by Chief Registrar and Associate Curator Claire Pingel, addresses military nursing during World War II when more than 70,000 women, including Jewish women from all over America, served our nation as military nurses. Initially intended to open in March 2020, highlights from this exhibition are available online.

Artifacts included in this exhibition include an Army Nurse Corps cloak, a prayer book for Jews in the Armed Forces carried by a nurse while stationed in India, a Cadet Nurse’s pre-surgery scrub brush, and photos of Jewish American military nurses.

This exhibition is presented in memory of Dr. D. Walter Cohen.

Free Admission

Museum admission will be free for the near future, made possible through a generous challenge grant from The Jane and Daniel Och Family Foundation, which has committed matching funds to subsidize admission over the next two years, up to $500,000.

Visit https://theweitzman.org/ to learn more.

High-Resolution Photos and Credits

The Weitzman (credits enclosed)

The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz (credits enclosed)

“OY/YO” by Deborah Kass (credits enclosed)

Colleyville Artifacts — Cup and Chair (credit: Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History)

Military Nursing During WWII (credits: all images, unless otherwise indicated, are from the collection of the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History)

Established in 1976, and situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience. The Weitzman NMAJH presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore, and celebrate the history of Jews in America. Its purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire. https://theweitzman.org/


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