The Riddle of the Baal Shem Tov

No one knows when or where he was born, but on the festival of Shavuot we mark the passing of the Baal Shem Tov, one of the most influential figures in the Jewish world of the past few centuries. Was “The Besht” a real person or just a Hasidic legend? How has this enigmatic figure influenced generations of followers? How did he foresee his own death? Dr. Chaim Neria, curator of our Judaica Collection, offers insight on the life of this fascinating person.

Singing to Napoleon’s Tune on Yom Kippur

As Yom Kippur draws to a close, a nostalgic tune is sung in Ashkenazi synagogues around the world. While many Jews recognize this tune, most do not know that it was actually composed for Napoleon Bonaparte himself. So how did a Napoleonic marching tune make its way into our neilah prayer service?

When Memory Comes Alive: The Diary of a Yiddishe Woman

In 1743, Glückel of Hameln, wife, mother, and businesswoman, wrote a detailed memoir in Yiddish to enlighten her descendants about her life as a 17th century Jewish woman in Germany, describing experiences as dramatic as murders, pirates, and even a false messiah!

The Missing Milkcan of Warsaw Ghetto

Inside the Warsaw Ghetto, Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum knew that it was only a matter of time until his Jewish community was completely wiped out. But, refusing to let the Nazis destroy all evidence of Polish Jewish life, Ringelblum began archiving his entire community… with the help of a Shabbat afternoon club and a small collection of milkcans.

Life Inside the World’s First Ever Ghetto

In 1516, the Venetian Republic changed the course of Jewish world history by opening the first ever Jewish ghetto. Amidst deep persecution, segregation and humiliation, the oppressed Venetian Jews were somehow able to create a thriving society in their enclave, and soon Jews were even attempting to get inside!

The Jewish Designer Who Transformed the Future of Modernism

World-renowned designer Josef Frank rebelled against artistic norms, delivered scathing critiques of fellow artists, and was repeatedly forced to defend his identity. Despite this, he became one of the most famous, if also one of the most controversial, Jewish designers in history.