Jewish Museums: Hidden Gems

Gordon Haber

With pandemic restrictions easing, many of us are thinking about traveling again. With that in mind, we thought we’d point out a few Jewish museums that you may have overlooked. As usual, this isn’t a comprehensive list; it’s suggestions to get readers thinking about Jewish creativity and the wonderful diversity of the North American Jewish experience. And we find it really interesting to explore how Jewish institutions grapple with issues affecting other communities. If you find yourself in any of the places mentioned below, add these museums to your itinerary.


The Bernard Museum of Judaica

Another institution up Fifth Avenue gets more attention. But the Bernard Museum of Judaica is worth a look. Located in NYC’s famed Temple Emanu-el, it has a remarkable collection of Jewish artifacts dating from the 14th century. The temple itself is gem, of course, but don’t miss the Bernard’s lovely collection of objects and visiting exhibitions.
Check out the Bernard Museum.


The Jewish Museum Milwaukee

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee has a tradition of thoughtful, imaginative exhibitions, including Then They Came for Me, on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, and an upcoming exhibition of Siona Benjamin’s energetic, colorful work. JMM is also collecting digital works to document life during COVID.
Check out the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.


The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

If you live in the Bay Area, The Magnes isn’t so hidden. But many from elsewhere are unaware of this world-class facility, which has a gorgeous selection of textiles, metalwork, ritual objects, books, and more. There’s visual art too: we’re excited about the archives of photographer Roman Vishniac (detail left) and illustrator Arthur Szyk.
Check out the Magnes Collection.


The Museum of Jewish Montreal

The community that gave us Leonard Cohen, Mordecai Richler, and superior bagels also has a fantastic Jewish institution—The Museum of Jewish Montreal, or La Musée du Montréal Juif. It’s moving to a new home, but walking tours restart in May—don’t miss Beyond the Bagel, a culinary tour of the Mile End and Plateau neighborhoods. 
Check out the Museum of Jewish Montreal.


The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education 

Portland has a complex history. The OJMCE enlightens visitors with Discrimination and Resistance, An Oregon Primer, on the discrimination suffered by varied groups in the region. Henk Pander, The Artist as Eyewitness to History features powerful large-scale paintings made in response to the protests of 2020. 
Check out the OJMCHE.


Saint John Jewish Historical Museum

Saint John is a small city in New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy, which has the world’s highest tides. It also has a museum that tells the story of a tight-knit Jewish community from the 18th century to today. The museum is a lively cultural center, with lectures, a library, a film festival, and local archives. 
Check out the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum.

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