Monday, February 18th, was Presidents’ Day; we headed over to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage on Richmond Road in Beachwood for the 2019 annual Friends of the Maltz Museum Presidents’ Day Celebration. The gathering was mostly aimed at young families and the children were given the opportunity to create masks of U.S. Presidents like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. They also took part in a project called “If I were President, my executive order would be: ___.” We were impressed by the thoughtfulness of some of their ideas, such as: “Take All Measures to Protect the Environment,” “To Make a Law so All can have freedom from Slavery,” “Stand for the End of Racism,” “To Help People in Need,” and “Equal Treatment for All.”
Between 1pm and 2pm, there was the annual “Meet the Presidents” presentation tour. While we waited our turn for the tour, we stepped into the museum’s small cinema and watched films of speeches given by various U.S. Presidents of modern times. President Ford’s inaugural address in 1974 when he quickly assumed office after President Nixon was forced to resign and President Obama’s election night victory speech in 2008 were some of the speeches included. At first, we didn’t recognize the location of a speech by President Eisenhower. Mr. Ben Becker, Manager of Public Programs for the Museum, graciously looked it up for us. As it turned out, it was one that then-General Eisenhower gave to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1944 when World War II was winding down; nevertheless, the General was adamant that we all must continue to fight with full force up to the last. To be sure, we watched films that were less somber, like one about U.S. Presidential dogs, and one that showed all of our leaders from Woodrow Wilson onward tossing out the opening ball at baseball games.
Soon, it was our turn to “Meet the Presidents” so we headed over to engage with George Washington (paired with Emma Lazarus), Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman. As the event’s description read, those at the Maltz Museum “selected some historical moments important to Jews and paired them with the Presidents who served as the leaders of this country at that time.”
- George Washington (played by Art Diamond) discussed an exchange of letters that he had with Moses Seixas and the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI about hopes that “the newly formed United States would accord respect and tolerance to all of its citizens.”
- Emma Lazarus (played by Adrienne Yelsky) proudly noted that her poem “The New Colossus” was displayed on the base of the Statue of Liberty and how much comfort it brought to people who immigrated to the United States, many of whom were Jews (as was she) who were escaping persecution.
- Teddy Roosevelt (played by Jeff Kaplan) talked about how, as New York Police Commissioner, he had to use his wits to prevent a possible riot when a very anti-semitic preacher was scheduled to speak.
- Abraham Lincoln (played by Harvey Krieger) recalled the events which lead up to him ensuring that Jews would be admitted into the U.S. Chaplaincy Corps and how he overturned an order by then-General Ulysses S. Grant that would have forbade the Jewish people from settling in certain territories.
- Franklin Roosevelt (played by Victor Goodman) explained why political conditions at the time made it tough for him to challenge the quota system that allowed only a certain number of refugees to enter the United States in the late 1930’s before the U.S. got involved in World War II. He said that his failure to do so was the biggest mistake of his career because if he had done so, many more people could have been saved.
- Dwight Eisenhower (played by Tom Hardy) talked about the horrors he had witnessed after the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp had been liberated and how he ordered his troops to view it also so that they could understand why the war was necessary.
- Harry Truman (Tony Dreskin with some help from Lori Dreskin who played a government official) talked about his efforts to help create the state of Israel which he recognized 11 minutes after it was established on May 14, 1948.
Ms. Shoshana Ault was our docent for the presidential tour, she came to the United States at age two-and-a-half with her family, all of whom were refugees from Hungary at the time of the holocaust. She was thus very appreciative of the work that we do at Margaret W. Wong and Associates, LLC.
Lastly, we went over to the “Israel Then and Now” exhibit to take part in a colorful “storywalk” project that was titled “Ari & Abigail’s Passport to Israel” about two young children who were visiting Israel for the first time and thus got to have an enriching experience comparable to that of immigrants.
Before we left for the day, we learned that the storywalk, which written by Ms. Dahlia Fisher and illustrated by Ms. Amy Jindra, has now been reproduced as a children’s book with the same title; subsequently, there will be a launch party at the Museum on March 3rd which we plan to attend.