Want to hear a rocking kiddie band, paint a mini-masterpiece, listen to a story, check out some modern art and, oh, yeah, travel back in time? Then you need to clear a day on your schedule for visiting The Jewish Museum. Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at the corner of 92nd Street and 5th Avenue, the Jewish Museum has activities specially designated for families, as well as floors that are appropriate for all ages. But be forewarned that some that are most definitely not kid-friendly. Keep reading and we’ll fill you in on what’s what.
Great For Kids
A good, no-pressure place to start your visit at The Jewish Museum is with The Archeology Zone. Your pint-sized Indiana Jones can learn all about how objects are excavated from the ground, cleaned off and studied, and how those objects are then used to make guesses about human life thousands of years ago. They can measure and weigh replicas of precious objects, peer at original artifacts through glass, make a mosaic rubbing, assemble a larger than life amphora puzzle out of jagged pieces and find out What Happened to King Hezekiah’s Jar, plop down in a rebuilt ancient Moroccan home and, best of all, even dig in a sand-pit with tiny tools to make their own discoveries during Sunday Drop-In Digs!
Of course, if your kiddos are more the make their own rather than look at somebody else’s art types, then opt for the Art Workshop and Family Tour. These are scheduled around specific themes like Our House, Colorful Emotions, Mastering Materials and Shimmer+Glow, and include both a talk about the Museum’s collection and hands-on art activities like sketching, painting, and collage.
Can’t make up your mind? How about a little bit of everything, then? Sundays at the Museum feature art, music, stories and history all in one. And if you really want to Supersize your experience, attend a Special Family Day, which cranks the fun up to 11 with holiday workshops, wacky guest performers and more.
Okay For Kids
While not specifically designed for kids, the Museum does have several exhibitions that are child-appropriate, as long as there’s an adult around to explain and clarify. Start with Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, which answers the question of how Jews have been able to survive scattered all across the globe for over 4,000 years via a stunning collection of artifacts ranging from candlesticks to wine glasses to ceremonial plates to mezuzahs and challah coverings. This exhibition comes with a free audio guide for children ages 6 and up, featuring an introduction plus twenty-one chats to help them enjoy the experience. Pick one up at the 4th Floor lobby.
Another fun, perfect for kids exhibition is Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh, a whimsical, modern art installation that embraces design, film, sculpture, poetry and performance to make a point about happiness and personal satisfaction. But your kids will most likely focus on the photos of sugar cubes, bubbles, and water balloons.
Also okay is R. B. Kitaj: Personal Library, which consists of fifty screen-prints based on enlarged photographs of the bindings or jackets of books from the artist’s personal library. Kitaj was making a point about the fragility of life and art as an avaunt-garde intellectual self-portrait. Your kids will probably take it as a lesson that it’s fine to mess up their books, they can later take pictures of the results and get a one-man gallery show from it.
Not For Kids
And then, there’s the topic that makes visiting any Jewish Museum with children a fraught proposition: The Holocaust. No Jewish Museum can avoid it. Fortunately, however, you can. The Museum’s life-sized sculpture, The Holocaust, is currently not on view (but it does come out of rotation periodically, so you’d best ask prior to your visit whether it’s currently out and what floor it’s on). On the other hand, for parents looking to start a conversation that fills their children in on Jewish history that includes not just the Holocaust, but also the pogroms of Russia, the Inquisition of Spain and a variety of other atrocities, several items and paintings in the Culture and Continuity exhibition can be used for that purpose, as they feature scenes of flight and family heirlooms smuggled across borders.
A Family Membership to The Jewish Museum costs $135 dollars a year and offers free admission for two adults and their accompanying children. Otherwise, tickets are $12 for adults, while kids 18 and under are free.
Other important things to know:
Strollers are not permitted in the special exhibitions galleries, but umbrella strollers are welcome in the rest of the Museum.
The cafeteria, Cafe Weissman, offers a kid’s menu and is located on the lower level. (What, you think a Jewish Museum would let you go hungry?)
Visit the museum during the week for ‘Pay What You Wish Thursdays,’ which takes place every Thursday night from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Admission is, you guessed it, whatever amount you decide to offer.
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Avenue at 92nd Street
New York, Ny
What was on display on your last visit to The Jewish Museum?
all photos courtesy of Alina Adams