Swapping Instagram Accounts with the Studio Museum in Harlem

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on


On February 2, the Jewish Museum joined 17 other museums in New York City in #MuseumInstaSwap, an initiative that partnered museums with each other to swap Instagram accounts for the day. Who took part?

Although the Jewish Museum and Studio Museum in Harlem may not have a closely connected institutional history, we were intrigued by our pairing as an opportunity to tell the story of museums that represent identity and culture. A critical component of sharing a visit to the Studio Museum to Jewish Museum followers on Instagram began with the museum’s artist-driven history. The Studio Museum was founded by artists and activists in 1968 and to this day continues to support artists of African or Latino descent through its residency program, which gives the museum the “Studio” in its name. We were invited to the studio spaces upstairs and met some of the artists in residence. In the lobby, we could not resist capturing the spirit of this museum with Glenn Ligon’s iconic work Give us a Poem, a light installation blinking the words “me, we.” As a museum for people of all backgrounds, we were drawn to this work as a poignant statement about identity and community that extends beyond our own. We also discovered unexpected overlap in artists represented in both museum collections and exhibitions, including Kehinde Wiley who was the subject of a major exhibition at the Jewish Museum in 2012 Kehinde Wiley / The World Stage: Israel, and part of our collection.

View the archive of the Instagram swap on Storify and follow #MuseumInstaSwap to view the complete collection of images shared by all 18 museums in New York City.

The Most Popular Works of 2015 in the Jewish Museum Online Collection

Based on Google Analytics data, we pulled the most viewed works of the past year in our online collection:

  1. Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade, c. 1940, Weegee
  2. Monument (Odessa), 1989 – 2003, Christian Boltanski
  3. Hanukkah Lamp, second half of the 19th century
  4. The Return of the Volunteer from the Wars of Liberation to His Family Still Living in Accordance with Old Customs, 1833 – 34 Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
  5. The Holocaust1982, George Segal
  6. The Flight of the Prisoners, from The Old Testament, c. 1896-1902, James Jacques Joseph Tissot
  7. Being the Light, 2000, Matthew McCaslin
  8. Marriage Dress, Fashions for the Millennium: Protective Amulet Costume, 2000, Michael Berkowitz
  9. Portion of a Synagogue Wall, 16th Century
  10. Hanukkah Lamp, Unorthodox Menorah II, 1993, Joel Otterson
  11. The Steerage, 1907, Alfred Stieglitz

Joel Otterson, Hanukkah Lamp, Unorthodox Menorah II, 1993, mixed metal pipes, cast bronze, porcelain, and glass, 1993-216

The Jewish Museum’s collection began in 1904 with a gift of 26 ceremonial objects donated to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. After moving to the Warburg Mansion in 1947, the collection expanded to include fine arts, archaeological artifacts, decorative arts, media, and photography. Today our collection is comprised of nearly 30,000 objects. Our most searched objects showcase the incredible range and depth of the collection.

The Jewish Museum boasts the largest collection of Hanukkah lamps in the world. In our permanent collection galleries, traditional forms are often displayed next to irreverent versions like Joel Otterson’s Unorthodox Menorah II.

George Segal, The Holocaust, 1982, plaster, wood, and wire, 1985-176a-l

One of our most iconic works, George Segal’s monumental sculpture about the Holocaust also speaks to this meeting of the traditional and the contemporary. “Of course I intended references to Judaism’s spiritual past,” the artist says in a letter to a visitor found in the Museum’s archive, dated Valentine’s Day 1996, giving us courage amidst this difficult subject. “A sensual Eve, a protective Abraham shielding his son’s eyes from the horror around them, a reference to Christ’s gesture on the cross … For me, a fervent belief in the principles of Judaism does not preclude friendship with like-minded idealists from all religions.”

Hanukkah Lamp, Germany (?), second half 19th century, silver: engraved, traced, punched, appliqué, and cast, D 205

Sometimes the history of how works came to the Jewish Museum is as fascinating as the works themselves. For example, objects in our collection with the accession number “D,” like the silver German lamp on this list, indicate that they came from the Free City of Danzig. In the summer of 1939, 10 crates were delivered to the Jewish Museum (then part of the Jewish Theological Seminary). They contained the precious possessions of a community on the brink of war. The city’s legacy — their Torah ornaments, Hanukkah lamps, textiles, and other objects — were sent here for safekeeping. (A month later, the German army marched into Danzig.)

Weegee, 1899-1968, Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade, c. 1940, gelatin silver print, 2000-72

Just a year later, around 1940, Weegee photographed a bagel man in New York. Here, in Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade, the smiling, confident Max rushes toward us, delivering bagels to a restaurant in lower Manhattan. Weegee used a flash called his “Aladdin’s lamp” to achieve the image of a solitary, glowing figure emerging from darkness.

Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907, photogravure

Of course, with such a large collection, only a fraction of it is on view at one time. Our rotating series Masterpieces & Curiosities has allowed the Museum’s curators to bring out of storage some incredible objects and to tell their full stories — such as Alfred Stieglitz’ The Steerage, on view now. Of his own masterpiece, the artist said, “If all my photographs were lost, and I’d be represented by just one, The Steerage, I’d be satisfied.”

But these are just 11 objects in our collection of thousands. Be sure to visit the Museum (online and in person) to see some of these works and discover more while you’re here.

— Katherine Danalakis, Collections Manager, the Jewish Museum

In Conversation: Elizabeth Wilf, Mayer Sulzberger Awardee

Elizabeth and Joseph Wilf

At this year’s 30th annual Purim Ball on February 24, 2016, the Jewish Museum will honor Joseph and Elizabeth Wilf with the Mayer Sulzberger Award. In 1904, Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 objects of fine and ceremonial art to the library of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, thereby forming the initial concept of the Jewish Museum and the basis for its distinguished collection.

The award now recognizes the Wilfs’ contributions to art, culture, and education related to the Jewish experience. In our Winter/Spring 2016 Members’ Newsletter, we included an excerpt of our discussion with Mrs. Wilf. Below is the complete text from our Q&A.

The Jewish Museum:  The Museum honors your legacy of supporting its mission by presenting you and Mr. Wilf with the Mayer Sulzberger Award. How did your family’s relationship with the Museum begin?

Elizabeth:  My husband was asked to join the Board of the Jewish Museum years ago. At that time, we were well-established in the Jewish community of suburban New Jersey. My husband had taken leadership roles in the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, the Joint Distribution Committee, and other agencies that support Jewish families and life. He really enjoyed every Board meeting he attended. Becoming involved with the Jewish Museum was very appealing to him and to me, as well as being connected to the Jewish community of New York City and supporting the arts and Jewish culture.

Recently he retired from the Board, and asked that his two daughters-in-law take his place: He wanted our family to remain on the Museum’s Board, and they are enjoying it very much. Our sons, daughters-in-law, and now our grandchildren are following in our footsteps.

JM:  Do you remember the first Purim Ball you attended? What was most memorable about that evening?

Elizabeth:  The first Purim Ball — we went to so many — was beautiful and elegant. It was a real Purim, and everyone was all dressed up.

View of the Jewish Museum’s 2015 Purim Ball. Photo: Aria Isadora/BFA NYC

JM:  You have supported numerous institutions over the years, including the United Jewish Appeal, the United Way, and St. Barnabas Medical Center. How have your values helped guide your philanthropic commitments?

Elizabeth:  Our Jewish values have always guided us. To my husband and me, being Holocaust survivors, supporting the State of Israel, Yad Vashem, and Holocaust remembrance has always been central to our lives.

We started on a very small scale but, as we grew financially, our giving also increased, of course — more involvement. It’s wonderful to be involved, to give tzedakah, to see that you can do good by bringing something of comfort and betterment to people.

JM:  What did you champion early on in your philanthropic career that you’re still excited about today?

Elizabeth:  Our involvement with Yeshiva University goes way back, but it’s still very rewarding to see a pupil being able to continue his education by giving a scholarship, or by supporting a medical school such as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Thank God we can do that in America!

JM:  Your generous and longtime support has helped the Museum to continue to thrive. What recent Jewish Museum initiatives have made you most proud?

Elizabeth:  We are excited to see the upcoming Isaac Mizrahi show [opening in March], which we helped support. When we are called upon by the Jewish Museum to support the arts and culture of our people, we are happy to do it.  We want to be sure the Museum grows and remains an important and vital part of New York City.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Elizabeth and Joseph Wilf — as well as Cultural Honoree Isaac Mizrahi — at this year’s Purim Ball, taking place Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at the Park Avenue Armory.