Volume 7 Number 96

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Holocaust Museum
         [gamoran,samuel h]
         [Mike Gerver]


From: <shg@...> (gamoran,samuel h)
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 93 15:33:29 -0400
Subject: Holocaust Museum

A few weeks ago, I promised, b'li neder, to write a critique of our trip to the
Holocaust Museum on Washington D.C.  It took me a while to find the time but
here it is.  I've cast it in the form of a letter to the museum which I am
sending to them.  It didn't quite fit on one of their suggestion postcards :-).


                             Samuel H. Gamoran
                          Ramat Modi'im POB 1521
                         D.N. Modi'in 71909 Israel
                           Tel: 011-972-8-261817

                              or temporarily

                              34 Cedar Avenue
                       Highland Park, N.J. 08904 USA
                             Tel: 908-545-6910
                            Work: 908-699-5218

                                        June 11, 1993

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW
Washington DC 20024-2150
Attn: Visitor Services

Dear Sirs and Madames:

On May 31, my family and I visited the new United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum as part of a tourist trip to Washington.  At that
time, I promised to write a critique of our visit and to post it to
"mail-jewish", an electronic forum for discussion of Jewish issues
within the context of Orthodox Judaism.

Also, while in the museum, I picked up one of your comment and
suggestion cards inviting responses.  I then decided to post my
comments to mail-jewish and to send the same in a letter to you.

The Holocaust Museum is a first-rate museum.  Architecturally the
building is a masterpiece, both to look at and in terms of
organization, flow, crowd control, facilities, etc.  The exhibits
are "state-of-the-art" in the use of video/film/computer
technology.  Labeling is meticulous and clear.

The museum is definitely worth visiting.  Its mission is to
document what happened to the Jews and others in Europe by the
Germans fifty years ago.  That it does admirably.  As the husband
of a second-generation survivor, I am probably more informed about
the basic facts than the average visitor.  Nonetheless, I found the
review of the material important and certainly there are many
things I did learn.  It is so much more so for someone less well
informed, including our children.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum differs from other monuments such as Yad
Vashem in Jerusalem.  In Israel, there is no need to "prove" that
the holocaust occurred.  The country's entire psyche is molded by
the vast number of survivors.  Yad Vashem exists to commemorate, to
honor those who were righteous and heroic.  The U.S. Holocaust
Museum exists to document and to teach those who may not know. 
This it does admirably.

There is a definite American slant to the entire museum.  The
American point of view is fitting and appropriate for a museum in
Washington.  The top floor of the exhibit, devoted to the pre-war
years, makes the case that America, as well as others, could see
what was starting to happen and chose to ignore.  There is a wealth
of material from the American press of that time to prove this.  On
the second floor of the exhibit, devoted to the Holocaust itself,
there is heavy use of American eyewitness and newspaper material
from the liberators of the camps.  There is also discussion of
American and Allied shortcomings, such as failing to bomb

The amount of material in the museum is vast.  On our way to the
top in the initial elevator ride, the attendant said that it would
take several days to see everything.  He wasn't exaggerating.  We
were limited to the three hours before the museum closed and it was
enough to skim all, but concentrate on only a few of the many
audio/visual showings.

We bent the rules a bit on the recommended ages of children coming
to the museum (11 and over for the permanent exhibit).  The baby of
course was quite oblivious, but both our 8 and 11 year-olds were
able to handle it and totally absorbed in what they were seeing. 
Since their two living grandparents are both survivors it was quite
meaningful to them.  It's probably not for every child of their
ages.  For three hours, the only time this happened during our trip
to Washington, there was no fussing, no boredom, no kvetching.

Despite our willingness to expose the children, I am quite grateful
for the barriers separating the most graphic brutal displays.  Only
persons above a certain height can see these photos of executions,
suicides, and other gruesome details.  I was really impressed by
the sensitivity training given to the museum attendants.  When our
11 year old leaned over one of the barriers to look (his sister
simply couldn't), the guard immediately asked him for his age and
us for permission.

At the end of the permanent exhibit we found the Learning Center
with its modern computer facilities.  Sadly, we did not have enough
time to do this justice either.  We did try out a terminal in one
of the cubicles.  I found it to be state-of-the-art multi-media,
hypertext, etc.  If I were doing research, I could have stayed for

We also managed to get in, just at the end of the day, to the
children's exhibit.  It's presented in the form of a first-person
story - Daniel's diary.  You start out in Daniel's pleasant house. 
In the next room you see all the effects of late 1930s
discrimination against Jews.  Finally you move to a concentration
camp where Daniel's mother and sister die - Daniel and his father
survive.  This part of the museum is recommended for age 8 and
above.  I found it simply moving.

I hope you sense from this letter that the museum is definitely
worth visiting.  If I have the opportunity to go back to Washington
I will definitely visit again.  I'm going to close with a list of
small improvements that I think could be made.

Information About the Museum:  I only found out, quite by
happenstance, that you need tickets to get into the museum.  I
think the tickets and crowd control are a great idea.  It's worth
the small service charge to TicketMaster to avoid waiting on line,
but it was almost impossible to find out what to do!  I called the
Museum's listed phone number many times.  It usually never
answered.  It would have been enough to get a recording telling me
whom to call.  Finally, someone on mail-jewish told me about
tickets and TicketMaster.  It took many busy signals and several 15
minute calls till I finally got tickets.

Cafeteria:  The museum cafeteria is vegetarian but not certified
kosher.  I know there are problems with Federal funding and
contract vendors, but I still feel that the only facility in which
all the people being commemorated would have eaten would have had
to be kosher.  I looked over the menu.  There was nothing sold that
could not be obtained in kosher form (probably the most difficult
item would be kosher cheese).  It would still be the right thing to

ID cards:  Before entering the exhibit, every visitor is invited to
take a card from a dispenser selected by sex and age group.  This
card contains the name and biography of someone who was involved in
the Holocaust.  The instructions also said that the card would
later be "updated" as to the fate of the individual.  I never found
the printing stations for updating one's card.  At the same time,
the card itself looked fairly complete from the beginning, so I
wonder if there has been a change in instructions?

In the big picture, these comments are extremely minor.  I am glad
we were able to go to the museum and I look forward to returning.


                                        Samuel H. Gamoran


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sun, 30 May 1993 4:31:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Orthodox

In v7n54, several suggestions are offered for a term to replace "Orthodox",
but it seems to me that none of the suggested terms really mean the same
thing as "Orthodox". Yaakov Kayman suggests "shomrei mitzvot" and Dov Ettner
also suggests this, as well as "Yirat shammayim". To see the problem with
these, consider the following sentence:

	No shomer mitzvot person [or "person with yirat shammayim"] would
	cheat on his income tax.

Let's say we're talking about American income tax, to avoid questions about
the halachic legitimacy of the State of Israel levying an income tax. In that
case, this is an unexceptional statement that everyone would agree is true.
Now substitute "Orthodox" for "shomer mitzvot" and you get the sentence:

	No Orthodox person would cheat on his income tax.

This sentence has an entirely different meaning, and in fact all but the most
naive would agree that it is false! This is not a pleasant fact, but it proves
that "shomer mitzvot" does not mean the same thing as "Orthodox". One cannot
even argue that "Orthodox" ever meant the same thing as "shomer mitzvot"
since the term was originally used in a sarcastic way by non-observant Jews.
If we did start using "shomer mitzvot" as a substitute for Orthodox then I
suspect that "shomer mitzvot" would quickly acquire the meaning that "Orthodox"
has now, and that the first sentence would be regarded as false by most
people. We would then have to invent another term to replace "shomer mitzvot."

The suggestions of Bob Werman ("frum") and Janice Gelb ("kipah srugah" and
"shachor") do not suffer from this problem (one could readily substitute them
into the second sentence without changing the meaning) but suffer from
another problem: they only cover parts of the set of people who are designated
by "Orthodox". The differences in nuance between "frum" and "Orthodox" were
dealt with in mail-jewish sometime around late September or early October

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


End of Volume 7 Issue 96