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The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128

The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
212.423.3200

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Jewish Museum Members and visitors can park at Impark and Champion Parking. Read More

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Upcoming Events

Fri, Jun 22

Friday, June 22, 2018

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2 PM

Gallery Talk
Chaim Soutine: A Closer Look

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Sat, Jun 23

Saturday, June 23, 2018

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11 AM

Free Saturdays

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Wed, Jun 27

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

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6:30 PM

Russ & Daughters Herring Pairing Party
Celebrate the Start of a New Catch and the Wonders of Herring

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Sat, Jun 30

Saturday, June 30, 2018

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11 AM

Free Saturdays

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Mon, Jul 2

Monday, July 2, 2018

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1 PM

Summer Studio Sessions
Drop-In Art Workshop

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Fri, Jul 6

Friday, July 6, 2018

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2 PM

Gallery Talk
Chaim Soutine: A Closer Look

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Sat, Jul 7

Saturday, July 7, 2018

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11 AM

Free Saturdays

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Mon, Jul 9

Monday, July 9, 2018

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1 PM

Summer Studio Sessions
Drop-In Art Workshop

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Thu, Jul 12

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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10:30 AM

Educator Workshop
The Still Life Paintings of Chaim Soutine

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Who We Are

Welcome to the Jewish Museum, a museum in New York City at the intersection of art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Whether you visit our home in the elegant Warburg mansion on Museum Mile, or engage with us online, there is something for everyone. Through our exhibitions, programs, and collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media, visitors can journey through 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture from around the world.


As an art museum representing the diversity of Jewish culture and identity, the Jewish Museum believes in free expression and an open society. We embrace multiple viewpoints regardless of race, gender, national origin, or religion, and we oppose discrimination in all its forms.


Our exhibitions and public programs provide platforms for cross-cultural dialogue, fostering empathy, mutual understanding, and respect. We champion the powerful roles art and artists can play in our communities, both inside and outside the Museum’s walls.

Our Mission

The Jewish Museum is dedicated to the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people through its unparalleled collections and distinguished exhibitions. Learn More

History

The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904 in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where it was housed for more than four decades. Located along New York's Museum Mile, this elegant former residence has been the home of the Museum since 1947. Learn More

Stories

If These Walls Could Schmooze Read More

Artist Maira Kalman’s mural at Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum pays homage to love, longing, and lox.

Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum with In This Life, There Was Very Much by Maira Kalman, 2015. Assemblage of vignettes and small scenes reflecting the artist’s appreciation of good food, shared human pleasure, and her view that Russ & Daughters represents a New York City infused with a sense of character, yearning, and humor. Commissioned by the Jewish Museum. Photo courtesy of Russ & Daughters.
Image of Joel Russ with his daughters, Hattie, Ida, and Anne. Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Photograph courtesy of Russ & Daughters. Bottom image selection from the mural.

Guests dining at Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum may be too busy enjoying platters piled high with the finest smoked fish, bagels, and babka to notice that they are sitting beneath a work of art that expands their art viewing experience at the Jewish Museum to another level.

Nestled on the lower level of the Jewish Museum, the restaurant features a mural titled In This Life There Was Very Much (2015) by the artist Maira Kalman. An assemblage of sketches drawn in black and highlighted with gold, the mural was commissioned by the Jewish Museum as a gift from Edith Weider in honor of her daughter, Rella.

The idea for the artwork came from Claudia Gould, Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director of the Jewish Museum. Gould had initiated bringing Russ & Daughters to the Jewish Museum, and approached Kalman about creating the mural for it. A customer of the store since her days as a student at New York University, the artist readily agreed. “It was just delightful, fresh, and new; spirited and smart,” said Kalman of the opportunity to combine the stories of the Jewish Museum and Russ & Daughters in the mural at Gould’s behest.

The composite of sketches that became Kalman’s mural were chosen from 115 drawings acquired for the Jewish Museum collection; approximately 80 were then arranged on the restaurant’s walls and embellished by the artist herself.

Josh Russ Tupper, 4th generation co-owner of Russ & Daughters. Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Photograph by Jen Snow, courtesy of Russ & Daughters.

Kalman began the research process by immersing herself in the history of the appetizing shop. Appetizing shops began as specialized food stores catering to the needs of Jewish immigrants who kept kosher, which requires the separation of milk and meat. Delicatessens, called “delis” for short, sold meat products such as pastrami, while appetizing stores specialized in dairy and fish, such as lox, allowing those practicing kashrut to observe dietary laws.

As her research progressed, Kalman said:

“There were so many different roads to go down, I couldn’t have been happier. It combined all the things I love the most: Being sent on an assignment to do research, observe, and watch; a food place, which is my favorite kind of place to work in; the history of New York, the history of eating, and the history of Eastern Europe.”

Founded by Joel Russ, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant to New York, Russ & Daughters began out of a pushcart in 1907. By 1914, the business was established as a storefront on the Lower East Side. Russ was soon joined by his daughters, Hattie, Ida, and Anne, and it is believed to be the first business with “& Daughters” in its name. Russ & Daughters is now led by 4th generation family owners (and Joel Russ’s great-grandchildren) Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper. All four generations of Russ family owners are featured on the wall.

The unique cultural significance of Russ & Daughters in the history of New York City proved inspirational to Kalman, as did her own experience as a customer. In her time as a client of the store, Kalman’s own taste in smoked fish — a classic staple of the Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine that’s made Russ & Daughters beloved for generations — evolved from nova to herring.

“As a child I hated herring, all forms of herring, until one day I woke up ten years ago and loved herring, “ admitted Kalman. “My family was from Belarus and they ate a lot of herring. As a kid I hated it, but now I can’t get enough. I’m so happy herring is in my life.”

Her love of the fish is evident in the mural’s illustrations.

Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Images on right selections from the mural. New York Herald Tribune clipping of Hattie Russ courtesy of Russ & Daughters.

Kalman spent hours at the Russ & Daughters Cafe and store downtown on the Lower East Side, sketching food and customers, poring over their archives, and observing the counter people in their trademark white lab coats.

“I take a million photographs and then see what I like,” said Kalman, describing her work process. “It’s from the details of the fork being plunged into the herring, the knife cutting it, the wax paper. ”

Kalman arranged scans of individual sketches on a blank wall as the restaurant at the Jewish Museum was being constructed, by taping copies of the original drawings against the wall, and grouping them together. The final configuration of drawings was photographed and made into a custom wallpaper. Once installed, she added a layer of illustration with gold paint.

“I wanted to add a little glimmer,” Kalman noted. “A little light.” The final version of the mural can only be seen on the restaurant’s wall.

From Archive to Mural: A version of the Russ & Daughters logo from the store’s archives, the current logo, and Kalman’s illustrations of the logo’s trademark fish from the mural. Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Logo images courtesy of Russ & Daughters.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1949 and raised in New York City, Kalman is a uniquely versatile artist whose work spans illustration, design, and writing. In 2011, the Jewish Museum presented Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World), an exhibition highlighting her ability to transcend genres. Regarding her approach to illustration, Kalman has reflected:

“There is a strong personal narrative aspect of what I do. What happens in my life is interpreted in my work. There is very little separation. My work is my journal of my life.”

Interweaving the personal and professional is also an important aspect of the Russ & Daughters legacy. Kalman said her research often felt like a homecoming to her own family’s tradition of gathering for large meals around Jewish holidays and the food that was shared on those occasions.

Niki Russ Federman, 4th generation co-owner of Russ & Daughters. Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. This sketch includes images of schmaltz and a shot, as well as the iconic neon fish from the store and cafe. Photograph by Jen Snow, courtesy of Russ & Daughters. Bottom image selected from the mural.

Niki Russ Federman was delighted to spend time observing Kalman at work.

“I spent time with Maira at the shop, at the café, in our office flipping through old pictures, and walking the streets of the Lower East Side,” Niki recalled. “It’s fascinating to see how those moments ended up in the final mural. Most people don’t recognize me or the other known ‘characters’ in the mural. I think they speak to the universality of family, memory, ancestry, culture, and food.”

As for the question they get asked most often about the Kalman mural, Josh Russ Tupper laughed: “We get asked if it’s available as wallpaper and if so, where they can get it.”

For your next visit, here’s a guide to some of the figures in the mural:

Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Photograph by Harvey Wang, courtesy of Russ & Daughters.

Mark Russ Federman

Niki Russ Federman’s father and Josh Russ Tupper’s uncle was the third-generation owner of Russ & Daughters, inheriting it from his mother Anne, founder Joel Russ’s youngest daughter. His memoir, Russ & Daughters, Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built is available at the Jewish Museum Shop, along with other Russ & Daughters merchandise.

Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Top and bottom photographs courtesy of Russ & Daughters. Middle image selection from the mural.

Zero Mostel

Zero Mostel, the actor who originated the role of Tevye in the classic Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, was a devoted customer of the store. A portrait of Mostel by photographer Arnold Newman is part of the Jewish Museum’s collection. The performer held a special place for generations of the Russ family. Niki recalled:

“Family legend goes that he wanted to marry one of the Russ daughters, but my great-grandfather, Joel Russ, quashed that idea very quickly. According to him, Zero was a meshugenah not cut out for hard work. My great-grandfather only cared about sons-in-law who would come into the business. Apparently, there were no hard feelings, even for my grandfather Herb, who was approved for marriage into the family. One of my favorite photographs is of Zero and Herb hugging while lighting each other’s cigars.”

Igor Stravinsky, Musicians, and Dancers

Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder Gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Images on the left selections from the mural. According to Kalman, the violinist is a depiction of Jascha Heifitz, and the man with glasses is Igor Stravinsky.
Cover image of Max in Hollywood, Baby by Maira Kalman. Jacket illustration © 1992 by Maira Kalman. Published by New York Review Books, a division of The New York Review of Books.

Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky is considered one the most influential figures in music of the 20th century. He came to the United States in 1939, and became a citizen in 1945. A frequent muse to Maira Kalman, she also featured his name in her series of books about Max the Dog Poet, which are available at the Jewish Museum Shop. Stravinsky died in New York, at the age of 88 in 1971.

“I don’t know if he ever ate at Russ & Daughters,” said Kalman. “But he might have! The drama and the romance of performance is an intersection with food and looking at the history of anything,” said Kalman of her unexpected source of inspiration. “I found an opportunity to put in musicians, dancers, and other characters sitting in cafes in Eastern Europe. They were the faces of people I saw at the restaurant or at the store, or the faces of people who should have been there.”

Rella Wieder’s Cat

Maira Kalman, In This Life There Was Very Much, 2015. Assemblage of 115 pen and ink drawings on paper. Jewish Museum, New York, Commission: Edith Wieder gift in loving memory of her daughter Rella Wieder. Artwork © Maria Kalman. Images on lower left and upper right selections from the mural.

When Edith Wieder gave the commission for the mural in honor of her daughter, she requested that Rella’s cat be included in the art. Kalman was given the pet’s picture and depicted the cat throughout the sketches. The feline is immortalized in the mural, delighted to romp about with the fish.

— Writer: Ruth Andrew Ellenson

Illustration Composites: Leo Brooks and Eric Markus

Maira Kalman’s mural In This Life There Was Very Much is on view now at Russ & Daughters at the Jewish Museum, on the lower level of the Museum. Explore Kalman’s original drawings in the Jewish Museum collection online.


If These Walls Could Schmooze was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Objects Tell Stories: Finding Hidden Meaning in Arlene... Read More

Jewish Museum intern Martina Ceppi reflects on a sculpture by artist Arlene Shechet in the Jewish Museum collection.

Arlene Shechet, Travel Light, 2017. Gypsum, resin, and wax. 24 7/8 × 23 3/8 × 9 1/2 in. The Jewish Museum, New York. Contemporary Judaica Acquisitions Committee and Judaica Acquisitions Committee Funds

As an Argentinean student in New York City, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself, and about adapting to a different culture, during my recent internship at the Jewish Museum. Most importantly, I came to understand that although one may “travel light” to another country with a few necessities, one’s identity and knowledge from past experiences will always follow.

Travel Light (2017), on view now in the Jewish Museum exhibition Scenes from the Collection, is a contemporary sculpture by artist Arlene Shechet that combines her own experiences of the past, present, and future. At a glance, the work features several pairs of Sabbath candlesticks that appear to have been bundled into a small suitcase wrapped with a strap.

Upon closer inspection, there is a deeper story, beginning with the origin of the candlesticks: in 1920, Shechet’s grandmother brought them to the United States when she immigrated from Belarus. The candlesticks were the only material objects the family possessed from their country of origin. Near the bottom of the suitcase, a faint image of a page from her grandmother’s passport can be seen through the sculpture’s semi-transparent resin and wax material. The artist once said this about the work, which was commissioned for the Jewish Museum collection:

I wanted to do something that was very personal, that was also addressing the theme of immigration and movement that is historically at the core of the Jewish population, and that of many people in the world, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries.

What did Shechet mean to convey by titling her sculpture Travel Light? I become drawn to the work because of its open-ended invitation for each viewer to discover and interpret the meaning in their own way. The way I saw it, the story Shechet wanted to tell with this sculpture was one that was not only hers, but the stories of the many people before her.

Jewish Museum Intern Martina Ceppi

Travel Light also inspired me to consider my own family’s story of immigration from Italy to Argentina. Although we always assumed that my mother’s great grandfather immigrated from Genoa, my family recently came across a surprising discovery. A few months ago, my grandmother began gathering documents to obtain an Italian passport, which required proof of where her grandfather was born. She soon discovered that Genoa was the city where my great great grandfather had taken a ship to travel to Argentina, and he was actually born somewhere else in Italy.

While creating this sculpture, Shechet learned about her own relatives and uncovered long-forgotten family documents, as well as new stories about her uncertain origins. My personal family story is still full of myths, but Travel Light has inspired me to begin searching for the truth.

— Martina Ceppi, Digital Marketing Intern

Arlene Shechet’s Travel Light is on view now in Scenes from the Collection. Learn more about internship opportunities at the Jewish Museum at TheJewishMuseum.org/Internships. The deadline to apply for fall is June 22.


Objects Tell Stories: Finding Hidden Meaning in Arlene Shechet’s “Travel Light” was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Moustache and the Monocle: A Lesbian Portrait... Read More

In honor of Pride Month, the Jewish Museum examines Gert Wollheim’s painting of a gender-ambiguous couple living in Weimar Germany.

Gert Wollheim, Untitled (Couple), 1926. Oil on canvas. 39 1/2 × 29 1/2 in. The Jewish Museum, New York. Gift of Charlotte Levite in memory of Julius Nassau. 1990–130

Gathered with other portraits in the Jewish Museum exhibition Scenes from the Collection, a painting hangs of a gender-ambiguous couple by Gert Wollheim, a German-Jewish artist who lived in Berlin at the height of the Weimar Republic.

The portrait depicts the pair standing in a café during a period in Germany of economic instability and reckoning with the ghosts of World War I. Social convention and sexual mores were challenged, upending societal norms of the times. With its blurred gender lines and haunting quality—the subjects look neither at each other nor at the viewer — Untitled (Couple)(1926) focuses on the shifting gaze of LGBTQ culture between the World Wars.

While fashionable, androgynous, and theatrical, the figures are not obviously women. Newly granted the right to vote, women of the era were called Neue Frau (New Women) and enjoyed greater earning power and sexual freedom than ever before. Wollheim painted the couple to reflect those newfound liberties, and also used a visual trope to identify them as lesbians.

The tuxedo, cropped hair, fedora, and penciled mustache — while seeming to depict traditional masculinity — were recognizable, coded symbols for gay women in metropolitan cities during the Weimar era. Slicked-back hair, white face makeup, thin eyebrows, binoculars, and monocles were also popular style choices within lesbian circles during the period.

The painting was created in the style of Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity), a term coined in 1923 for work that expressed the desire to depict everyday reality. Wollheim was part of the movement and particularly close to a circle of artists living in Dusseldorf known as Das Junge Rheinland (The Young Rhineland). Reflecting on the message of his art, Wollheim once said about his work:

“We don’t need style, we need human testimony.”

Born in 1894, Wollheim was the son of German Jewish manufacturers and attended art school from 1911–1913. A soldier in World War I, he was discharged in 1917 with severe injuries that inspired the creation of his most famous work, The Wounded (1919).

A leftist activist, inspired by his traumatic experience during wartime, Wollheim edited a journal of radical art and moved to Berlin in 1925. After featuring his work in their “Degenerate Art” exhibition, the Nazi regime forced the artist to flee Berlin for Paris in 1933, where he eventually went into hiding. It is estimated that 450 of his painting were destroyed or vanished during World War II. In 1947, Wollheim moved to New York where he lived until his death in 1974.

Gert Wollheim’s Untitled (Couple), 1926 is on view now in Scenes from the Collection. Explore other LGBTQ works in the Jewish Museum collection.

Writer: Ruth Andrew Ellenson


The Moustache and the Monocle: A Lesbian Portrait in Weimar Berlin was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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