There’s always plenty to do in NYC on holidays, including Christmas Day. New York City’s three Jewish museums are open and not likely to be crowded, and all three have special family programs and must-see exhibits. Also, there are some great vintage films to see.
Jewish Museum – Visit Modigliani Unmasked, a critically acclaimed exhibition of early drawings by Amedeo Modigliani, many of which are being shown for the first time in the United States. Acquired directly from the artist by Dr. Paul Alexandre, his close friend and first patron, the works illuminate Modigliani’s heritage as an Italian Sephardic Jew, pivotal to understanding his artistic output.
The exhibition includes approximately 150 works, including a selection of Modigliani’s paintings, sculptures, and other drawings on loan from collections around the world, including multicultural African, Greek, Egyptian and Khmer influences that inspired the young artist during his early period.
There’s also a full schedule of family-friendly programs, including an art workshop and a concert by Oren Etkin, featuring a combination of Klezmer, jazz and the music of Africa. Open 11am to 4pm
Museum of Jewish Heritage – See the Core Exhibition of hundreds of photos and other artifacts of the Jewish experience, and three special exhibitions, the most significant of which is Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann.
This compelling exhibit closes on January 14th, and it is a must-see, to remind us how evil is born and grows. Eichmann, of course, is the Nazi responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people who might have lived out his days in Argentina as “Ricardo Klement”, until luck, a Holocaust survivor and Israel’s foreign intelligence service intervened. It’s one of the great spy thrillers of the 20th century.
The exhibit reveal the secret history behind the capture, extradition, and trial of one of the world’s most notorious war criminals, and examines the enormity of the crimes committed during the Nazi regime, and calls on us to consider the meaning of justice and accountability. The actual bulletproof glass booth in which he sat during his trial is part of the display, and the historic film clips of the trial are chilling, especially the clip in which Eichmann refuses to apologize for his crimes. Evil. Pure evil.
There are docent-led tours for adults, and for families, FREE with Museum admission, and a production by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene of “The Sorceress” at 2 PM (separate ticket required and advance purchase strongly recommended at nytf.org). The Museum’s restaurant, LOX at Café Bergson, is open during Museum hours.
Museum on Eldridge Street – Open Noon to 5pm with a variety of activities, including tours of the museum’s historic landmark building, self-guided scavenger hunts, and special family art projects. At 3pm, there’s a live concert with Lisa Mayer and her sons Zachary and Aaron perform music from the Hasidic, Klezmer and Yiddish traditions, as well as new Biblical Ballads for the next generation.
Lisa is a known Klezmer personality from the Sruli and Lisa duo; Zachary, 28, just completed a Masters Degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and tours with Zion 80; and Aaron, 23, is a senior at Brown University. The family has performed at the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, teach at KlezKanada, and headlined at International Music Festivals around the world.
Even though Hanukkah is over for this year, the museum’s new exhibition, Let There Be Light!, is still burning bright, featuring more than 100 fun and unique menorahs, on exhibit in the main sanctuary.
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Gershwin Songbook – In honor of the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald last year (1917-1996), this special compilation of rare concert footage was made. Enjoy the First Lady of Song performing George and Ira Gershwin classics, both solo and alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., et al. At the Film Forum, at 3pm. Reserve tickets here.
Lincoln Center Film Society – Spend the day with Charlie Chaplin, Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer and Trevor Howard in classics including Limelight, Gaslight and Brief Encounter.
IFC – Spend the day with the Karate Kid series, Beetlejuice and Dirty Dancing (the wonderful original with Patrick Swayze, not the pathetic recent remake).
What are your plans for Christmas Day?