New traveling exhibits celebrate the lives and works of Jewish artists

The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office announces three new small-format traveling exhibitions focusing on Jewish artists who have contributed to the culture of the United States and the world through their lives and work.

The three exhibits were developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, and the ALA Public Programs Office. The national tours of the exhibits have been made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, and an anonymous donor, with additional support from Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life.

Each exhibit is composed of eight panels printed in color on both sides, measuring 72 inches high by 38 inches wide x 1 inch deep. Each panel fits into a triangular base of heavy black cardboard. Exhibits can be optimally displayed in 200 square feet of space, making them ideal for use in a variety of locations.

1. In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak
Popular children’s author Maurice Sendak’s typically American childhood in New York City inspired many of his most beloved books, such as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. Illustrations in those works are populated with friends, family, and the sights, sounds and smells of New York in the 1930s. But Sendak was also drawn to photos of ancestors, and he developed a fascination with the shtetl world of European Jews. This exhibit, curated by Patrick Rodgers of the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, reveals the push and pull of New and Old Worlds in Sendak’s work and shows how Sendak’s artistic journey has led him deeper into his own family’s history and his Jewish identity.

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2. Emma Lazarus: Voice of Liberty, Voice of Conscience
Emma Lazarus was a fourth-generation American from a prominent Jewish family in New York City, a poet, critic, advocate for the poor, early feminist, and champion of immigrants and refugees. This exhibit, curated by Lazarus biographer Esther Schor, Princeton University, traces Lazarus’s life, intellectual development, work, and lasting influence, and reminds us of the iconic words of her poem, “The New Colossus,” engraved on a plaque now located in the Statue of Liberty Museum: "Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In Schor’s words, “She showed America how to become more generous, more noble, and more just. Her passion for justice lives on whenever we Americans dedicate ourselves to welcoming immigrants, training and educating the poor, and celebrating diversity.”

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3. A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, 1910-1965
Americans have always responded to the optimism, the wit and sophistication, and the passion and verve of the standards that make up the “American Songbook.” The best songwriters associated with this era combined a genius for melody, memorable lyrics, and the ability to connect with a wide audience. A remarkably high percentage of these songwriters were Jewish by birth and heritage. In this exhibit, curated by essayist and poet David Lehman, and illustrated with colorful posters from Broadway shows and photographs of composers, singers, and the casts of hit musicals and films, we learn about the lives and works of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and a host of other Jewish songwriters who wove the American songbook deep into the fabric of American culture.

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