A Walking Tour Through Time


Got some time for history? Here's a Jewish time machine that H.G. Wells never thought of — what to do and where to go once you step inside the new National Museum of American Jewish History.

Here are some of the highlights:

· The "Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame" on the first floor — chosen by an online vote from 56 countries, as well as museum historians and curators — is chai-lighted by the first 18 inductees, including Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg, with video valedictories from crooner/historian Michael Feinstein, among other notables.

· A stroll down the steps (or elevator ride) leads to the concourse and its Dell Family Auditorium — named after the computer moguls — whose 200 seats are reserved for the anticipated programs and performances spanning the arts on stage. Exhibited elsewhere on the floor is the original model for "E.T." — taking the bike ride of his life — part of the movie magic provided by Spielberg.

· Before you call home, hop a ride to the top. There's a spectacular terrace view offered on the fifth floor, where those taking a break can also take a gander at the surrounding Independence Mall (the terrace is open to the public when an exhibit is on display). The floor is home to a 5,000-square foot space suitable for the museum's rotating exhibitions.

· Begin the exhibit tour on the fourth floor since it affords a feel for the "Foundations of Freedom: 1654-1880," homing in on the establishment of the first Jewish community settled in America.

· Down one level, the third floor offers "Dreams of Freedom: 1880-1945," where the oldest pair of Levi jeans are displayed — rip included. Second-hand Roses and first-class seamstresses are also represented in displays that reflect the schmatta trade during that era.

· Step-by-step, inch-by-inch brings one closer to the old vaudeville days and comic comeuppance provided by Jews who faced anti-Semitism everywhere but perhaps on stage as American Jewish moguls, comedians and actors. They're all given their due in "Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945-Today," on the second floor.

· Also on the second floor: Thirteen architecturally outstanding temples (including the national historic landmark Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park) have been put in the spotlight.

· What better way to wrap up your time at this living time capsule of a museum and its 1,000 artfully arranged artifacts than by a nearby stop, still on the second floor, where guests can actually videotape their own stories for posterity.

The section is aptly dubbed "It's Your Story," because, when you think of it, this museum really is. 



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