The New National Museum of American Jewish History

from The Philadelphia Inquirer:

New museum offers 4 floors of perspectives

If there’s an ethnicity not in need of a museum to bear witness to its exquisitely realized ambition, it’s that of the American Jew. In science, Jews lay claim to Einstein; in music, Bernstein. It’s hard to think of a group that in the last century has more clearly led media and entertainment, finance and commerce.

American Jews might be the most spectacular overachievers in our young country’s history, and it’s never been much of a secret.

The assumption for many who tracked development of the new home of the National Museum of American Jewish History was that it would be a vanity project. The unfortunate timing – fund-raising took place in a severe recession, as Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme sent spasms through Jewish philanthropy – only gilded the sense of folly.

But in its opening state, at least, the new $150 million Jewish Museum on Independence Mall turns out not only to do justice to its subject, but in some cases makes the material soar. Its three themed floors, plus a ground-level hall of fame, are layered with the kind of substance from which three-and four-hour visits can be wrought. It’s a serious place of learning and, in quiet, airy coves overlooking Independence Hall and its environs, contemplation.