Taking visitors from the 1880s to present day, the Museum’s Core Exhibition features more than 800 artifacts and 2,000 photographs that illustrate Jewish history and highlight personal experience of global significance.
The exhibition is organized as a chronological and thematic journey through three main sections: Jewish Life a Century Ago, War Against the Jews, and Jewish Renewal. By including portions of the exhibition that focus on the periods before and after the Holocaust, the Museum proclaims that Jewish lives and the Jewish people will not be defined solely by atrocity.
Jewish Life a Century Ago, the first of the Core Exhibition’s three main sections, tells of the multifaceted and vibrant lives Jews lived in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries even as it reveals the historically specific struggles they faced.
The War Against the Jews portrays Jewish people making different decisions about how to confront hatred, the growing threat of violence, and Nazi criminality and murder. Communities, families, and individuals struggled to assert their autonomy, agency, and humanity. As they formed strategies for survival, Jews looked abroad for help and fellow Jews living in other countries attempted to heed their calls. The exhibition also features Righteous Among the Nations—non-Jews who put their own lives at risk to help their neighbors or perfect strangers.
Jewish Renewal explores the period after World War II as the Jewish people strove to rebuild their lives, reconstitute and revitalize their communities, and reaffirm their commitment to the Jewish religious imperatives and traditions of tzedakah, social justice and charity, and tikkun olam, repairing the world. It also tells the story of the effort to bring Nazis and Nazi collaborators to justice. Two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were killed. Those who perished and those who survived each had a story that was different and significant. The Museum highlights accounts that represent a spectrum of experiences.
Next to objects and documents form the Museum’s collection, survivor testimony is positioned as the most important part of the Core. It personalizes history, reminds Museum visitors of the individual lives that were brutally cut short or changed forever, and invites them to consider and connect with a range of human experiences.
Twenty-four documentary films, produced by Rainmaker Productions of New York and interspersed throughout the exhibition, allow survivors and their descendants to speak. These videos include testimonies from Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. The Core Exhibition was designed by Patrick Gallagher.
Free Guided Tours of the Core Exhibition
Every Tuesday at 3pm (except July 4)
Take a guided tour of the Core Exhibition. This drop-in tour is free with Museum admission. The meeting point is in the Museum’s Anne & Bernard Spitzer Grand Foyer.
All three floors of the Core Exhibition are covered: Jewish Life a Century Ago; The War Against the Jews; and Jewish Renewal.
The tour is recommended for visitors who are at least 12 years of age. Parents are advised to preview the exhibition and use their discretion.