Category Archives: Museums and Exhibits

Newly Opened Museum of Broadway Celebrates Artistry, Legacy of Theater

A ticket for admission to one of George M. Cohan’s shows © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

There are actual top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line. You step into Doc’s drugstore from West Side Story. See costumes from Phantom of the Opera. There are scores of artifacts, music sheets, props, director notes, rehearsal photos. You see the original Playbills of iconic shows and theater posters going back to the very beginning of American (that is New York and ultimately Broadway) theater. And then you go “backstage” to see how all the creative and technical processes all come together, that speaks to you not so much as star-struck audience member but as a person yearning to be in theater. “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!”

This is the Museum of Broadway, newly opened in November, 2022.

Top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line, on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/

Rather than burst any star-studied illusions or theater magic, this opportunity to go behind the curtain is tremendously exciting – you get to see (and appreciate) what goes into such show-stoppers, cultural icons as Show Boat, Oklahoma, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Company, Rent, A Chorus Line, Lion King, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Hamilton, several offering immersive experiences.

In all (believe it or not), the Museum limelights more than 500 individual productions from the 1700s to what is on stage now.

And you get insights into such theater luminaries as Ziegfeld, Sondheim, Webber, Fosse. You come away even more awestruck and under theater’s spell than when you entered.

The Museum features work from Emmy Award winning illustrator I. Javier Ameijeiras (Rent Live!), neon artist Dani B, Tony Award nominated dancer Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris, former NYCB principal), Drama Desk Award winning scenic designer David Korins (Hamilton, Beetlejuice), choreographer Julio Monge (West Side Story), and dancer Tanairi Vazquez (West Side Story, Hamilton). (Find a full list of the artists featured in the Museum at

A Museum of Broadway homage to “Cats,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s landmark musical based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot © Karen Rubin/

The Museum of Broadway is an immersive and interactive theatrical experience devoted to musicals, plays, and the people who make them. Featuring the work of dozens of designers, artists, and theatre historians, you are taken on a journey along the timeline of Broadway, from its birth to present day.

You travel through a visual history of Broadway, highlighting groundbreaking moments in a series of exhibits that showcase – and show off – dazzling costumes, props, renderings, rare photos, videos, artifacts, awards. Stops along the way highlight the pivotal shows or “game changers” that transformed the landscape of Broadway – the moments that pushed creative boundaries, challenged social norms, and paved the way for those who would follow.

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups © Karen Rubin/

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage (actually on the back stairs of the building, next door to historic Lyceum theater),  with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups.

Walk up three flights, where you hear “warm-ups” as you climb the stairs and go past rooms to show where hair, make-up would have been (performers are taught how to apply their own); the dressing rooms (one labeled “dressing room” is actually the bathroom) and get introduced to the traditions (even superstitions) of Broadway performers. (There is an elevator for those who cannot climb the stairs.)

You are brought into a waiting room before the introductory video – showcasing the Playbills and synopsis of shows currently on Broadway (can point to a QR code and purchase tickets right there), as the music for “Company” plays.

Then you are taken into a small screening room to see a video packing 250 years of history of New York theater into just four minutes. (It is surprising to learn the first actual public performance was in 1732 at the Playhouse, way downtown.)

The history of Broadway theater, told in a four-minute video at the Museum of Broadway dates back to 1732 © Karen Rubin/

New York Theater at first was centered in lower Manhattan – where Financial District and Chinatown are today, then, as rents moved up, theaters moved uptown along Broadway to Union Square, Herald Square and finally to Times Square (renamed for the New York Times newspaper, which took up residence in 1904).

Oscar Hammerstein I (grandfather of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II) was instrumental in opening a number of theater houses, beginning 1895 with the Olympia; the Schubert Brothers (Sam, Lee and JJ) soon followed, becoming a major powerhouse among theater owners.

Times Square became known as the Great White Way because of the lamps and electric white lights on marquees.

The Great Depression hit the theater industry hard – many theaters were converted to other purposes. But the end of World War II led to a Golden Age of Broadway, and Jujamcyn and Nederlander emerged as theater behemoths. Then, with the decline of New York City in the 1960s – crime, deteriorating condition – theaters were empty.

The city was desperate to revitalize the Times Square area and allowed the Marriott Marquis to build its new hotel (with a theater inside) to spur a renaissance. But that resulted in the destruction of five Broadway theaters – the so-called “Great Theater Massacre” of 1982. The outcry led to a new landmark preservation law to protect Broadway theaters.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking, longest-running “Phantom of the Opera,” has been seen by more than 19 million people over 35 years on Broadway. It is due to close in 2023 to make room for Webber’s new musical, “Bad Cinderella” © Karen Rubin/

The revitalization really was spurred in the mid-1990s, when Disney signed a 99-year lease for the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street and the city cleaned up Times Square. Broadway was back and “family friendly”, to the point there was a waiting list for incoming shows.

Then COVID hit in March 2020, shutting down the theaters -“the heartbeat of the city” – for 18 months, the longest period in theater history. Since Broadway is one of the top reasons visitors come to the city, and one of its top revenue-makers as well as employers, shutting down theater took its toll on the city’s finances.

After the video (I sit through it twice), you are brought into a sequence of rooms in a Timeline, showcasing the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater.

Timeline panels at the Museum of Broadway showcase the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater, going back to the earliest days with historic posters and photos © Karen Rubin/

The first panels are really interesting, featuring posters of plays starring Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, and (ironically) a production of “An American Cousin,” starring Laura Keene at the New American Theater in March 3, 1859 – the play Abraham Lincoln was watching at Ford Theater in Washington DC when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him. There is also, an interesting discussion of censorship – when Olga Nethersole, who played Sapho, was arrested for corrupting public morals (indecency). The scandal, first unleashed by the producer to generate audience interest and then played up by newspapers to sell papers (Yellow Journalism), backfired on the show, which though actually quite tame, was censored, but Nethersole was ultimately acquitted.

The panels also highlight the contribution and breakthroughs of Black Americans in American theater and breakthroughs by women. But it is odd that the contribution by Jewish creators is hardly a footnote, while incorporating photos and hard-to-read photo captions of the Marx Brothers, Irving Berlin, showcasing Showboat without mentioning Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, and Porgy and Bess without bothering to mention the Gershwins who wrote them.  

The influence of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Kurt Weill, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jule Styne is undeniable throughout the museum because of the productions that are highlighted, but unremarked. The only mention of Yiddish Theater comes in a tiny reference in a panel for a 1990 show, “Those Were the Days”) (For this part of history, see “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy” from Great Performances on (

There is a showcase of Ziegfeld Follies, as if you are in the (very pink and feathery) dressing room, with stunning costumes. There’s a photo but much information about Fanny Brice and a photo of Irving Berlin at the piano, but the notes emphasize how Ziegfeld reacted “when a few Follies cast members complained about sharing the stage with Black comedian Bert Williams, Ziegfeld’s reply was ‘The stage door is that way. I can do this show without any of you, but I cannot do it without Bert.’ And that was that.”

There is a whole set up for Showboat and how the musical changed the course of theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot (but only passing mention of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Jerome Kern who wrote the breakthrough musical based on Edna Ferber’s 1926 novel).

Hammerstein lambasted racial prejudice again in South Pacific:

 You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/You’ve got to be taught from year to year/It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made/And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II based on Edna Ferber’s best-selling 1926 novel, changed the course of musical theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot © Karen Rubin/

It isn’t until the 1990s panel that there is any mention of Yiddish Theater – arguably the progenitor if not the incubator of Broadway theater – when we learn that “Those Were the Days” in 1990 brought “the Shteltl” and “The Music Hall” to Broadway in an intimate two-part review performed in both English and Yiddish. “The show evokes a period,” director Eleanor Reissa explained. “Created by Zalmen Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld, the musical honored the legacy of a vibrant and influential Yiddish stage that flourished on New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the district’s most formidable figures was Boris Thomashefsky, who opened a Yiddish theater on Broadway in 1923.”

A room is devoted to the coveted Tony Awards and its namesake, Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing who had recently passed away when The Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947.

You walk through rooms devoted to Oklahoma and a set for Doc’s drugstore in the homage to “West Side Story” (there’s a Jets jacket on display as well). A small room crams together Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly, Neil Simon’s comedies before getting to the rock musicals – Jesus Christ Superstar – that led a new era on the Broadway stage.

Walk through the West Side Story set for Doc’s drugstore © Karen Rubin/

Thankfully, a major exhibit is devoted to Sondheim and you walk through what appears to be the set for Company.

The Wiz, we learn, got bad reviews, but the audience gave it a standing ovation and four curtain calls (the musical used a new marketing strategy of television commercials) – and you ease down yellow stairs.

A Chorus Line – one of the longest-running shows and the first to use computerized light board – features original costumes, marvelous 8×10 photos of the cast, plus I loved seeing original creative notes.

Notes for the opening song for A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/
Notes for “Handful of Keys” from A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/

(There is so much information crammed into a small space and the captions and notes are so small and hard to read (bring glasses), but you are encouraged to download an app where you can listen or read the notes.)

Honoring Broadway’s longest-running musical, “Phantom of the Opera”: a chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges © Karen Rubin/

Then you come to Phantom of the Opera – with some sensational costumes (from 1986) and artifacts from the show. Phantom is now the longest-running production in Broadway history (it was scheduled to close in 2023, when a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Bad Cinderella” is due to open). Among Phantom’s plaudits: it is the largest generator of money and jobs in Broadway history and has been seen by 19.5 million people over 35 years. There is an amazing chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges.

Along the way, staff people offer their own anecdotes or point you to artifacts or parts of the exhibit you might not have seen. And there are various interactive and videos, as Broadway tunes play in each exhibit.

The innovative costume/props for The Lion King on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/

The setting for “Rent” was designed for the museum by the original set designer. I love seeing some of the innovative props/costumes that turn human actors into animals for Lion King. You walk through the “office” for Producers” (a Tony is in the bookcase), costumes from Hamilton, and there is a whole line of costumes representing the shows currently playing.

Costumes from “Hamilton” on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/

Then you go down the stairs to the first floor where you are really treated to the back-stage, “let’s put on a show” tutorial.

This part of the Museum celebrates the behind-the-scenes of this dazzling American art form with a special exhibit, “The Making of a Broadway Show,” justifiably honoring the entirety of the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.

This section features multiple videos of directors of lighting, sound, music, as well as costumers and set designers discussing their craft. (Here, they should have given way more space and separated the sections of the exhibit better because the videos and sound overlap – even three and four at once – and the room is dark.)

Hey gang! Let’s put on a show: An entire floor Museum of Broadway is devoted to how a theater production comes together. Computerized lighting board © Karen Rubin/

But if you put in some effort – and time – you are treated to absolutely fascinating information about producing, designing the music, the lights, the sound, costumes (and tricks of “distressing” costumes), direction, choreography. This whole section – most of an entire floor – is a goldmine for anyone who harbors any interest in pursuing a career in theater production. There are even time sheets for what a costumer’s day is like, and a timeline from conception to opening night of a production.

Techniques of a costumer at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/

Want to be a costume designer? Check out what a day looks like at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/

At the end, I follow an arrow and found myself in a fantastic exhibit of Al Hirschfeld – the extraordinary cartoonist/caricaturist who was synonymous with every Broadway opening. We see many of his illustrations – from newspapers, posters, the originals, and I love the display of his sketchbooks that give a glimpse into his creative process – and learn about the origin of his iconic “Nina” embedded into his illustration (that became an obsession, much like Wordle is today, for New York Times readers). There is even a photo of him with his daughter, Nina, and a caricature of Nina, herself.

The origin of the famous Nina’s in Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures that so defined Broadway productions © Karen Rubin/

The Museum of Broadway is founded by entrepreneur and two-time Tony Award-winning producer Julie Boardman and founder of the award-winning experiential agency, Rubik Marketing,Diane Nicoletti. Elie Landauis the general manager.

The team of expert curators for The Museum of Broadway is headed by Ben West (Resident Historian and Curator, Timeline & Special Exhibits) and includes Jennifer Ashley Tepper (Curator, Historical Buildings), John Kenrick (Curator, Game Changer History), Faye Armon-Troncoso (Set Decorator & Props Supervisor, Making of a Broadway Show), Lisa Zinni (Costume & Props Curator) and Michael McDonald (Historical Assets Manager).

The Museum of Broadway is founded in collaboration with Playbill, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Goodspeed Musicals, Creative Goods, and Concord Theatricals.

There is so much to delight anyone who enjoys, appreciates theater – you don’t have to be an avid theatergoer or aficionado or maven.

The artifacts, costumes, inside (backstage) info, and insights throughout the Museum of Broadway are fabulous. You need at least two to three hours to go through. And bring reading eyeglasses or magnifying glass to read the tiny captions and notes. Open 7 days a week, 10 am – 10 pm.

Indeed, the Museum of Broadway seems to be very much a hit – the museum had a steady stream of visitors.

The Museum of Broadway, 145 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036, 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400,, follow @museumofbroadway on social channels.


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New-York Historical’s ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ Examines How Jewish Delicatessens Became a Cornerstone of American Food Culture

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli exhibit at New-York Historical Society tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

New-York Historical Society’s exhibition “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, is a fascinating exploration of the rich history of the Jewish immigrant experience that made the delicatessen so integral to New York and American culture. On view through April 2, 2023, the mouth-watering and culturally significant exhibition, organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (where it is on view through September 18), examines how Jewish immigrants, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, imported and adapted traditions to create a cuisine that became a cornerstone of popular culture with worldwide influence.

The exhibition explores the food of immigrants; the heyday of the deli in the interwar period; delis in the New York Theater District; stories of Holocaust survivors and war refugees who found community in delis; the shifting and shrinking landscapes of delis across the country; and delis in popular culture. You get to see iconic neon signs, menus, advertisements, and deli workers’ uniforms alongside film clips depicting delis in popular culture and video documentaries.

Laura Mart, co-curator of I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, now at the New-York Historical Society, explains the transition from pushcart to delicatessen, along with the fortunes of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe © Karen Rubin/

Some 2 million Jews came from Eastern and Central Europe to the United States between 1880 and 1924, when nativist anti-immigrant furor shut down immigration (there is a display showing some of the anti-immigrant propaganda). New York was a stopover but also a destination for millions and they brought with them their food culture, which, of necessity, was adapted.

“Why make a museum show out of the Jewish deli – which is a specific and unusual topic? The ‘deli’ allowed us to explore themes of how people of different backgrounds relate to one another” in such a melting pot as New York, said Laura Mart, one of the curators. “It shows how Jewish-American culture was created and maintained through generations. And it is also about joy, more important than ever. Museums are a place for joyful learning.”

“It’s a story of tradition and change, adaptation and resilience,” said Lara Rabinovitch.

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical, herself waxing nostalgic. I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions. I hope visitors come away with a newfound appreciation for the Jewish deli, and, with it, the story of the United States.”

“Whether you grew up eating matzo ball soup or are learning about lox for the first time, this exhibition demonstrates how Jewish food became a cultural touchstone, familiar to Americans across ethnic backgrounds,” said co-curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart. “This exhibition reveals facets of the lives of Central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that echo in contemporary immigrant experiences. It shows how people adapt and transform their own cultural traditions over time, resulting in a living style of cooking, eating, and sharing community that is at once deeply rooted in their own heritage and continuously changing.”

I’ll Have What She’s Having is co-curated by Skirball curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart along with Lara Rabinovitch, renowned writer, producer, and specialist in immigrant food cultures. It is coordinated at New-York Historical by Cristian Petru Panaite, curator of exhibitions. The exhibition explores topics including deli culture, the proliferation of delis alongside the expansion of New York’s Jewish communities, kosher meat manufacturing, shortages during World War II, and advertising campaigns that helped popularize Jewish foods throughout the city.

As is typical of New-York Historical’s exhibits, expanded presentation from its own collection and local twist includes additional artwork, artifacts, photographs of local establishments, and objects from deli owners, as well as costumes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a mouthwatering interactive, and a Bloomberg Connects audio tour.

A soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writes to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent, a confirmation of the success of the “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign © Karen Rubin/

Highlights include a letter in New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library collection from a soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writing to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent—confirmation of the success of a famous “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign. (Panaite painstakingly poured over a huge collection of World War II letters, one by one, to find it.) 

There are photos of politicians and other notable figures eating and campaigning in delis, including then-US Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at Ben’s delicatessen in Greenvale, Long Island. Movie clips and film stills include the iconic scene in Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally…, which inspired the exhibition title. This and other movie scenes underscore the prominent role of Jewish delis in American popular culture.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation is a closer look at the expansion of Jewish communities at the turn of the 20th century, not just on the Lower East Side but also in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. In the 1930s, some 3,000 delis operated in the city; today, only about a dozen remain. 

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society will evoke nostalgia in native New Yorkers, as well as a craving for a pastrami sandwich on rye © Karen Rubin/

The exhibition gives special attention to dairy restaurants, which offered a safe meatless eating experience; a portion of the neon sign from the Famous Dairy Restaurant on the Upper West Side is on display. Salvaged artifacts, like the 2nd Avenue Delicatessen storefront sign and vintage meat slicers and scales from other delis, are also on view, along with costumes by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska from the popular Prime Video series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Visitors are invited to build their own sandwiches named after celebrities, such as Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker, Frank Sinatra,  Ethel Merman, and Sammy Davis Jr., in a digital interactive inspired by menu items from Reuben’s Deli and Stage Deli (the menus are on display). 

On the Bloomberg Connects app, exhibition goers can enjoy popular songs like “Hot Dogs and Knishes” from the 1920s, along with clips of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia discussing kosher meat pricing, 1950s radio ads, and interviews with deli owners forced  to close during the pandemic lockdown.  

It’s a trip down memory lane for so many of us native New Yorkers – with the neon signs from popular delis and suppliers (Hebrew National), menus (there is one from Reubens, the home of the Reubens sandwich, which was a very popular venue for my family).

The roots for Jewish Deli cuisine were the fermentation, the types of foods, the technology of food, that originated in Europe, but the hallmarks of the Jewish Deli culture go beyond the food – to the booths, the waiters, the zeitgeist of the deli. We learn that that ambiance evolved – first from pushcarts on the streets of the Lower East Side (street food), to stools, to counter-style take-away shops, to finally having seating in full-fledged restaurants.

Case in point: Joel Russ founded his appetizing store out of a barrel in 1907 in Manhattan. He moved up to selling herring and other salt-cured and smoked fish out of a pushcart and finally opened a brick-and-mortar store in 1914.His daughters, Hattie, Ida, and Anne, worked in the store from the time they were 11 and 12. In 1935, he renamed the store Russ & Daughters, and are known as the “Sturgeon Queens.”

The delis introduced Americans to borscht (Slavic), gefilte fish, kishke (Slavic), vereniki (Ukrainian), kasha varnishkes (Russian), herring and chopped liver (“What am I, chopped liver?”). Also latkes (Ashkenazi), blintzes, knishes, rugelach and babka. Cheesecake is actually an American innovation.

The industrialization of beef production and processing actually made Kosher beef more desirable, hence Hebrew National’s slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.” © Karen Rubin/

Interestingly, the rise of industrial food processing and cattle production (which mass produced beef and discouraged pork consumption) actually increased the desirability of Kosher food – certified as meeting religious standards, hence the Hebrew National slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.”

Jewish entrepreneurs in Chicago capitalized on the opportunity to produce kosher beef, but ultimately, what became the Jewish Delicatessen was American.

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society traces how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/

“Meat was expensive in Europe. Jews couldn’t own land and meat was a luxury. But in the United States, meat became central to deli food.” At first, there was strict separation between deli restaurants like Katz’ and dairy restaurants, like Ratner’s – because Koshruth forbids the mixing of meat and milk – but over time, and with assimilation, even delis would offer items like cheesecake as dessert after a corned beef sandwich.

We learn about the Vienna Beef factory, founded in 1893 by Jewish Austro-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany. They first sold frankfurters at the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, then expanded to include Vienna sausages, pastrami, corned beef and salami.

A photo of Katz’ Delicatessen, circa 1900, one of the artifacts on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society tracing how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/

Katz’s Delicatessen, likely the oldest continuously operating deli in the US, was founded in 1888 by two brothers named Iceland. The Katz family became business partners and by 1917, bought out the brothers. At a time when most deli food was being sold from carts and barrels on the street, Katz’s was a brick-and-mortar delicatessen.

In 1916 on Coney Island, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker began building his empire by selling franks for five cents and undercutting his competition, Feltman’s.

And then there is this intrigue: fraud and corruption became pervasive in the kosher meat industry. In 1925, an estimated 40 percent of meat sold as “kosher” was non-kosher. In 1933, the NYC Department of Health and US Department of Agriculture raided Jacob Branfman & Son, one of the city’s main kosher delicatessen manufacturers, and seized over 1,400 pounds of nonkosher beef briskets. The owner was sentenced to 30 days in the infamous city workhouse.

A sign from Katz Delicatessen from the World War II-era campaign © Karen Rubin/

During World War II, Jewish delis promoted a campaign to “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army” (the slogan was developed by Sixth Avenue Delicatessen waiter Louis Schwartz) and used by delis including Katz’s. The slogan became so popular that comedian Jerry Lewis used it in the film, “At War with the Army” (1950).

Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds – that paid for 66 P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes, each which bore the moniker, “Louie the Waiter.” Schwartz developed a rhyme to inspire patrons to buy the bonds, “you’ll buy war bonds sooner or later, so get them from Louis the Waiter!”

Al Hirschfeld’s caricature of Sixth Avenue Deli’s Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds and created the slogan, “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army”.

Most interesting is to learn about some of the people who found refuge in the delis – as owners or workers. Paula Weissman, born in present-day Ukraine, survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She arrived in New York in 1948 with two dollars. After working in a Brooklyn girdle factory, she was hired as a temporary waitress at Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen on West 72nd Street. The 7-day temp job turned into 30 years.”In her black uniform and white shoes, Paula took the orders of Zero Mostel, Molly Picon, Rita Moreno and many other Broadway stars.”

Rena Drexler was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945 and moved to Munich, Germany, where she and her husband, Harry, began their new lives working in a deli. The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and opened Drexler’s Deli on Burbank Boulevard in 1957, selling kosher meals and products for the Orthodox Jews who settled in the neighborhood.

Paula Weissman, one of the Holocaust survivors who made a new life at Jewish delicatessens © Karen Rubin/

The original owner of the Second Avenue Deli, Abe Lebewohl, was a Holocaust refugee. Upon arriving in America and not even speaking the language, he took his first job in a Coney Island deli as a soda jerk, graduating to counterman and over the next few years, learning the secrets of superb pastrami and other traditional Jewish delicacies. In 1954, with a few thousand dollars he managed to set aside, Abe took over a tiny 10-seat luncheonette on East Tenth Street—the nucleus of the 2nd Ave Deli. Working around the clock for years—often filling in as cook, counterman, waiter, and even busboy—he put all his time and energy into making a success of his tiny establishment. “He never turned anyone away for lack of funds, he fed striking workers, homeless.” In 1996, he was robbed and murdered when making a bank deposit; the case unsolved.

In a nostalgic tribute to departed delis that continue to hold a place in the hearts of many New Yorkers, photographs show restaurants that closed in recent years. Eateries include the Upper West Side’s Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, and Loeser’s Kosher Deli in the Bronx. An exuberant hot dog-shaped sign from Jay & Lloyds Delicatessen, which closed in May 2020, and folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens, also pay tribute to beloved establishments. The exhibition concludes on a hopeful note, highlighting new delis that have opened their doors in the past decade, such as Mile End and Frankel’s, both in Brooklyn, and USA Brooklyn Delicatessen, located steps from the site of the former Carnegie and Stage Delis in Manhattan.

Ben’s, still a force on Long Island and Manhattan is illustrative of the changes in the Jewish Deli that followed changes in the lives of American Jews. To be blunt, in the mid-20th century, restrictive covenants that barred Jews (and Blacks) from living in certain neighborhoods were lifted, and American Jews were flocking to the suburbs. The delis followed.

What I found fascinating was that the Jewish deli grew up as the American industrialized cattle industry grew – displacing home-grown pork – making beef plentiful and giving rise to the sky-high thick pastrami and corned beef sandwiches that would never have been available to Jews in their European shtetls, where meat would have been a cherished rarity.

Folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens is on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deliat the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/

The exhibit ponders how it was, why it was that Jewish deli became so much a part of American pop culture.

“There is no definitive answer as to why the deli has inspired generations of Jewish filmmakers, comedians, musicians and writers. Perhaps it is because so many Jewish creatives got their start in New York City, where they frequented Jewish delis and later infused these experiences into their work. Or maybe it is because the Jewish deli is one of the most public secular environments in Jewish American life. It is a place where characters can demonstrate or celebrate their Jewish identity outside of private or religious spheres. Whatever the reason, the deli continues to have significant influence on Jewish artists.”

The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, alongside a model of his family’s delicatessen and a video of the famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” movie which provides the title for the New-York Historical Society’s exhibit, at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli. © Karen Rubin/

The better question has to do with how Jewish cuisine has become as integrated into in American culture as bagels (with or without lox). And that’s because so many of the creatives – in Broadway theater, film – were Jewish.

But Jewish delis, themselves, are struggling today, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic, but also because of changing economics – the cost of that two-inch high pastrami on rye, the rent. The sandwich that used to cost $1.95 (see the Reubens menu), now costs $25. The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, on hand at the press preview, spoke of the changing economics, he said that they don’t even make a profit on a $25 pastrami sandwich. “The profit is in the soup.”

Programming: Private group tours can be arranged throughout the run of “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish DeliFamily programming includes a food-focused family day celebrating foodways brought to New York City by immigrants from around the world. Living History programs bring to life the stories of proprietors, patrons, and staff of New York City’s Jewish delis. Visit for dates and details.

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952”

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952” exhibit at New-York Historical Society documents the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry © Karen Rubin/

After enjoying the joyful “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” go up to the second floor of the historical society for another, more serious, exhibition that is so timely in the here and now: “Confronting Hate 1937-1952” about the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry. To reach as many Americans as possible in the period leading up to the Holocaust, World War II and the aftermath, the agency embraced new mass communication technologies and partnered with talented allies – artists, writers, political leaders, church groups, politicians, magazine and newspaper editors. They produced comic books, ads, articles. Among the celebrities who joined a “Speaking for America” poster campaign in 1946: Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Danny Kaye, plus President Harry Truman and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

New-York Historical Society, New York’s First Museum

At the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, you experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History.

Digital exhibitions, apps, and For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history. Connect at or at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400,


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Long Island Has New Destination Attraction: Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame Opens in Stony Brook

Guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra perform under a vintage poster from way back when, at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

Your eyes open wide as you enter the new, permanent location of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, housed in a former Ward Melville Historical Organization building in historic Stony Brook Village, and realize the prominent musicians who grew up, got their start, built their careers on Long Island. That is, the whole of Long Island, from Queens and Brooklyn through Nassau and Suffolk.

While the Hall of Fame has been inducting honorees since 2004, this is its first permanent home, so is the first opportunity to really see the breadth and depth of the talent nurtured on the island. And it is so much fun to see the original posters, costumes, musical instruments, memorabilia from inductees including Twisted Sister, Zebra, Blue Oyster, Public Enemy, Vanilla Fudge, even Billy Joel’s actual motorcycle and Joan Jett’s 1983 Jaguar.

Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister, donated 12 costumes that hadn’t been seen in years, designed by Suzette Snyder © Karen Rubin/

Jay Jay French, founding member and bassist of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister, manager and record producer, went so far as to declare, “Without Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, you got nothing.  The circuit never existed before, and will never exist again.”

Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister; Kevin O’Callahan, Hall of Fame creative director and board member;  and Ernie Canadeo, LIMEHoF chairman © Karen Rubin/

That might be hyperbole, but he can be forgiven when you go up to the second floor, where there is the “Hall of Fame” with plaques and exhibits that recognize over 120 inductees, displayed across the walls the inductees year by year. In fact, you can easily imagine they will soon run out of wall space entirely when beginning next year, they also induct people from television and film. There are also cases chock full of memorabilia such as Perry Como’s Emmy (you have to really search – it’s like an attic).

An eclectic assemblage of memorabilia from Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Famers © Karen Rubin/

There are also areas for a library, classrooms for educational programs, and master classes, a surround sound theater, and a gift shop with music and entertainment-themed memorabilia.

Having an actual space means that the Hall of Fame also can present special exhibits.

Created by renowned designer Kevin o’Callaghan, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene – 1960s-1980s” is laid out to be like a club crawl, sparking those pangs of nostalgia for those places © Karen Rubin/

Its first exhibit now on display re-creates those cherished clubs. Created by renowned designer Kevin o’Callaghan, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene – 1960s-1980s” is laid out to be like a club crawl, sparking those pangs of nostalgia for those places. The exhibit features replicas of clubs – My Father’s Place, The Mad Hatter in Stony Brook, Oak Beach Inn, Malibu in Lido Beach, Speaks in Island Park and Pips Comedy Club in Brooklyn -with videos of artists performing, ads, posters, instruments. There is also a replica of a typical 1960s stage, complete with vintage equipment and sound system (donated by Zebra).

At the opening, guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra performed on that stage with the very sound equipment they used at clubs in the 1970s and donated to the museum (in order to better re-create the sound), and below a poster which showed their 1970s selves. Surreal time warp.

Blue Öyster Cult perform at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

Also performing, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry Chapin.

The newest honoree in the Hall of Fame, Wayne Robins, had to wait two years (because of COVID) to officially be inducted. At the official opening, Robins, who for more than 50 years has been a leading music and pop culture journalist, waxed nostalgic as he recalled being at Shea stadium for the Beatles Concert, Diana Ross sitting in his lap at her concert at Westbury Music Fair, using fake ID to get into music venues before he was 18. He began his career in 1972 at CBS Records, then writing for Rolling Stone, the New Musical Express, Melody Maker, the Village Voice and Creem Magazine before joining Newsday in 1975 as its pop music writer, where he worked for the next 20 years.

The 2020 inductee to the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame is Wayne Robins, a longtime music and culture journalist, who was presented with his award by Norm Prusslin and Chairman Ernie Canadeo © Karen Rubin/

Throughout, there are compelling visual elements and artifacts on display. Among the inducted artists who have donated memorabilia, are Billy Joel, Joan Jett, Debbie Gibson, Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, and the families and estates of Harry Chapin, Guy Lombardo, John Coltraine. Donations include various musical instruments, performance outfits, vintage automobiles and motorcycles, rare posters and photos, and handwritten lyrics.

Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry Chapin, performs at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister, donated 12 costumes that hadn’t been seen in years, designed by Suzette Snyder. Suzette was 15 years old when she first met Dee, having borrowed her cousin’s ID to sneak into a show. She designed an outfit – pink with fringes – and created the ‘Twisted Sisters look’.”

Suzette was 15 years old when she first met Dee Snider. She designed an outfit – pink with fringes – and created the “Twisted Sisters look” © Karen Rubin/

The opening night event included performances by guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin.

Rich L’Hommedieu, one of the co-founders of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

Rich L’Hommedieu, one of the co-founders, said, “The music industry started on Long Island – song sheet sellers came from Manhattan, Jazz musicians who couldn’t afford Manhattan had homes in Queens. Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong. Then there were the street corner doo wop groups, the hip hop. Garages in suburbia incubated rock bands.

It’s mind-bending to realize how many music groups and musicians have ties to Long Island © Karen Rubin/

In fact, every musical genre is represented among the122  honorees (so far) – there’s Aaron Copland, Brooklyn (2008), Barbra Streisand, Brooklyn (2008), Beverly Sills, Brooklyn (2008), Eddie Palmieri, Queens (2010, George Gershwin, Brooklyn (2006), George M. Cohan, Kings Point (2006), Carole King, Brooklyn (2008), Ervin Drake, Great Neck (2012), Cyndi Lauper, Brooklyn/Queens, (2006), Guy Lombardo, Freeport (2008), Marvin Hamlisch, Westhampton Beach (2008), Morton Gould, Queens/Great Neck (2010, Oscar Brand, Brooklyn/Great Neck (2010), Perry Como, Port Washington (2006), Simon & Garfunkel, Queens (2008), Steve Martin, Long island (2010), Tony Bennett, Queens (2006), Vince Giordano, Brooklyn/Hauppauge (2016), William “Count” Basie, Queens (2008), and Cousin Brucie Morrow, Brooklyn (2018), Arlo Guthrie, Coney Island (2008), LL Cool J, Bayshore (2008) (The full list is mind-blowing.)

It’s mind-bending to realize how many music groups and musicians have ties to Long Island © Karen Rubin/

Among the groups with roots on Long Island: Gary U.S. Bonds; the Lovin’ Spponful; Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge; Public Enemy; Salt-N-Pepa; The Ramones; The Shangri-las; The Tokens; Twisted Sister, Vanilla Fudge, Zebra, Blue Oyster Cult, little Anthony and the Imperials

Also among the honorees: My Father’s Place, Dream Theater, WALK 97-5 FM, Westbury Music Fair, Jones Beach theater, Stony Brook University, CSS Security Service.

The idea for the Hall of Fame originated with co-founders Jim Faith, Rich L’Hommedieu and Norm Prusslin, who met at Stony Brook University in the fall of 2003 and by January 2004, launched the nonprofit without any government assistance at all, but with lots of volunteer help.

It was created as a place of community that inspires and explores Long Island music in all its forms. In addition to the Hall of Fame, the organization also offers education programs and scholarships to Long Island students, sponsors the Long Island Sound Award, and features traveling educational exhibits, including a state-of-the-art mobile museum.

Billy Joel’s motorcycle is on view at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

In 2014, when the Billy Joel Band was inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, Billy Joel said this in a statement: “After The Stranger was released, people began to recognize that the ‘Long Island Sound’ wasn’t just a body of water.” Indeed, it isn’t. Over the years, Long Island has produced some of the most talented and accomplished musicians and has become a respected music scene.

But, according to the museum’s history, it didn’t start off that way.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Long Island music landscape was rather barren and more of a stepchild to that of New York City, which had become a focal point of the music industry, with recording sudios and iconic music venues such as Max’s Kansas City, Fillmore East, and Electric Circus. Beside some local bars, schools and Westbury Music Fair (which had sporadic star performances, such as Judy Barland in 1967, The Who in 1968 and Bruce Springsteen in 1975), there were few live venues on Long Island.

Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden” at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

According to Norm Prusslin, music historian and a founding member of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, in the late 1960s Stony Brook University, emerged as an important venue to bring music to Long Island.

FM radio stations began popping up on Long Island, giving national recording artists Long Island airplay, and college radio stations began to showcase Long Island’s burgeoning musicians.

 “Long Island college radio stations were important in bringing to the airwaves local musicians of all genres, and that certainly contributed to Long Island artists getting heard and getting spoken about,” Prusslin stated.

Joan Jett’s jaguar is on view at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/

At the same time,  Long Island-based publications, such as Good Times magazine, began pioneering local music coverage and talking up Long Island artists. And venues, such as My Father’s Place in Roslyn, brought in a lot of local bands who didn’t have the opportunity for commercial exposure before.

By the early 1980s, some of the commercial radio stations, particularly WLIR and WBAB, began to follow Long Island college radio’s lead, focusing on Long Island artists.

An eclectic assemblage of memorabilia from Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Famers © Karen Rubin/

By the early 2000s, Long Island had become a hotbed for upcoming musicians as well as a sophisticated music scene. It now had its own music festivals, such as the Great South Bay Music Festival (established in 2006) and the Long Island Bluegrass Festival (which premiered in 2002), as well as the establishment of music-specific societies and organizations such as the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Traditional Music Society.

Co-founder Norm Prusslin reflects on how the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame came to be © Karen Rubin/

In August 2003, Prusslin had been reading an editorial in a local music magazine written by Richard L’Hommedieu—who would go on to become the founding chairman of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame—about the new Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which had opened in 1996. L’Hommedieu wrote that it would be great if Long Island had its own music hall of fame.

In January 2004, this enterprising group of founding members including Prusslin, L’Hommedieu, and other music educators, held an event at the Patchogue Theater announcing the creation of “a nonprofit organization that would recognize, honor, and preserve Long Island’s longstanding and diverse music heritage—a heritage that fought its way out of the shadow of New York City and would go on to inspire generations of music lovers.”

The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame was born.

“This is your home, your place, personal space, when can come and remember where great music came from on Long Island,” Jay Jay French said. “It’s your legacy.”

LIMEHoF is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 pm. Tickets are $19.50/adult, $17/seniors (65+)/Veterans; $15/students with id, 12 and under free.

Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, 97 Main Street, Stony Brook Village,


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Bruges to Amsterdam by BoatBikeTours: Antwerp, Medieval Jewel

Antwerp’s historic center, ringed with Guild Houses © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

Our BoatBikeTours route on Day 4 of our Bruges-Amsterdam bike tour into Antwerp would normally involve going through an interesting 500-meter long tunnel. But our leader, Arnold Thurko, tells us that the 1930s-vintage elevators broke and they haven’t been able to find the spare parts to fix it, so we ride over a bridge and take a ferry into the city instead, which proves a delightful ride with gorgeous views of the city and a fun (quick) ferry ride.

Arriving into Antwerp by ferry© Karen Rubin/

We park our bikes (Arnold stays with them) and go off with our leader, Corrie Stein, for a guided walking tour of Antwerp’s historic city center.

Antwerp’s Golden Age was the 1500s (earlier than Amsterdam), largely because of the advantage its Suikerrui (canal) provided traders by connecting the city to the sea. (Today it is closed off but you can visit the De Ruien, the underground waterway. You get to walk along old vaulted ceilings, narrow canals, bridges, sewers and sluices, and see the city’s underbelly. You can visit The Ruien by booking a guided group walk, walk on your own with an interactive tablet at fixed times or navigate a small section of The Ruien by boat. Go to  I have this on top of my list for a return visit to Antwerp. 

Antwerp © Karen Rubin/

Antwerp was apparently spared bombing in World War II. As a result, we can still marvel at the City Hall, which dates from 1560, and a magnificent square ringed with Guild Houses, one for each guild and each with its own decoration.

Antwerp’s historic center, ringed with Guild Houses © Karen Rubin/

The square has as its center the Silvius Brabo statue, a mythical Roman soldier. According to legend, Corrie relates, a giant, Druon Antigoon, who lived on river, would demand a toll from people who wanted to pass the bridge over the river Scheldt. If they refused, the giant would cut off their hand and throw it into the river. Brabo killed the giant, cut off his hand and threw it into the river. This is supposed to have been the origin of the city’s name, Antwerp, translated as “hand throw.”

Statue of Silvius Brabo, a mythical Roman soldier, who gave Antwerp its name by killing a giant © Karen Rubin/

We walk over to the Cathedral of Our Lady, built 1550-1800 in Gothic style. The belfry, 1339 meters high is included in the Belfries of Belgium and France list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The cathedral possesses some major works of art: including three major works by Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (two of which were confiscated by Napoleon and moved to France but returned to the Cathedral in the 19th century).

Antwerp’s historic center, ringed with Guild Houses © Karen Rubin/

We get back on our bikes and ride to where our ship, the Princesse Royal, is tied up at the dock, and walk a few blocks away to the Red Star Museum, which BoatBikeTours has arranged for us to visit.

This is a fascinating museum that is a kind of bookend to our Ellis Island Immigration Museum in New York City. Indeed, Ellis Island is where 2 million Europeans who boarded the Red Star Lines at Antwerp to come to America would have wound up. But this museum does more – it tells the age-old story of migration through individual people, going back to the Neanderthal, and why migration is such a fundamental quality of being human.

Antwerp’s Red Star Line immigration museum © Karen Rubin/

The commentary doesn’t shy away from condemning phrases (that are factually true) – for example, describing the brutal, impoverished conditions these desperate people were escaping, or taken by force as slaves, or fleeing persecution, and up to modern day anti-immigrant policies and speech that has lead to the plight of so many undocumented immigrants.

Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island, with a whopping 1,004,756 entering the United States in 1907 alone. Of these, only 2% were turned away (and if were sent back, it was at Red Star’s expense, which is why, we learn, the line was so very scrupulous with their own medical evaluations)

Anti-immigrant fervor took hold in the United States after World War I; the Great Depression, effectively brought an end to migration to America. By then, almost 20 million Europeans had emigrated to America – settling the West, populating the factories of new Industrial cities. The Red Star Line ceased sailing in 1934.

Antwerp’s Red Star Line immigration museum © Karen Rubin/

The exhibits are candid about the difference in how the wealthy traveled in such luxury and style compared to those in steerage. You get to see how passengers in different classes were treated – ‘livid’ – don’t disguise how tough steerage was (but compared to what leaving?). The inescapable conclusion that steerage class was actually key to the company’s revenue and profit.

The exhibits are remarkably personal. It is amazing to see these old photos and recognize the buildings, to see postcards, passports, ID papers, and personal effects.

What I loved most is the display on the first floor which so vividly conveys the central theme: there has always been migration, from beginning of man – and they personalize with one representative person for each era – even Neanderthal.

They show what compels migration in a honest way.

Antwerp © Karen Rubin/

Interestingly, for many, Antwerp became their final stop and today there are some 170 nationalities in Antwerp (another similarity to New York City). You can see it in the faces of school children on their outings, in restaurants that represent all nationalities.-Vietnam, Indonesia, Argentina, Italy, France.

For many immigrants, Antwerp became their destination and their home – you can see it in school children’s faces © Karen Rubin/

This is the evening we are on our own for dinner. (I miss out on visiting the Red Building, which houses an important museum, but even though it is closed, you can take escalators up eight floors to see the photos of people, old and young, then climb two stories higher to the top for a view.

I go off to wander Antwerp myself and on my way back to the ship, find myself in Antwerp’s Red Light District.

Stumbling into Antwerp’s Red Light district © Karen Rubin/

I have a story to tell when we are all back on board.

The Oklahoma couple says they wound up at a French restaurant, Bistro de Pottenbrug. They saw steak on the menu and wind up feasting on flattened pig heads, escargots, eel soup in creamy base.

“On this trip,” Lindsey says, “I decided instead of saying ‘no,’ to say ‘yes’.”  

Antwerp’s diversity is reflected in its restaurant offerings © Karen Rubin/

She asks what others’ weirdest meals have been:  Anne’s weird meal – bone marrow from buffalo; Janet’s was fish eye. Lindsey says, “Last night’s pressed pig head – but it could have been marketed better.”

Art abounds in Antwerp © Karen Rubin/
Art – and a sense of humor – abounds in Antwerp © Karen Rubin/
Art abounds in Antwerp © Karen Rubin/

What is so notable about Antwerp, which is still a major industrial city, is that in one view, you can see dozens of wind turbines, coal being shipped, even a nuclear plant billowing smoke, which we see as we sail out of Antwerp the next morning.

Antwerp is ringed by wind turbines © Karen Rubin/
An “all of the above” energy strategy on view in Antwerp: wind turbines, nuclear plant, and fossil fuels © Karen Rubin/

Antwerp is really worth a longer stay. The Antwerp City Card provides free entrance to the city’s top museums, churches, attractions and public transport; as well as some great discounts (

We leave Belgium and continue on into The Netherlands.

Boat Bike Tours, Aambeeldstraat 20, 1021 KB, Amsterdam, Netherlands, tel.: +31 20 72 35 400,  [email protected],

See also:

Idyllic Trip: Biking and Boating from Bruges to Amsterdam

Bruges-Amsterdam by BoatBikeTours: Biking to Ghent

Bruges to Amsterdam by BoatBikeTours: Antwerp, Medieval Jewel

Bruges to Amsterdam by BoatBikeTours: Dordrecht, the Birthplace of Holland

Bruges to Amsterdam by BoatBikeTours: The Windmills of Kinderdijk


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Best Part of Prague Castle? The Tiny Houses

Tiny Houses on Golden Lane, just the right size for these Prague school children © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

For my second full day in Prague, I head out to what is appropriately its most important attraction, Prague Castle. I walk over the Charles Bridge (Karlov Most), which was built by Charles IV in 1357, and then up, up, and up (you can take a tram) to the castle gate. I flash my Prague Cool Pass app on my phone at the ticket window and get a ticket that you present at for entry to each of the various attractions within the castle complex, which dates back to the 9th century.

Cathedral St. Vitus within Prague Castle was built between 1344 and not finished until 1929© Karen Rubin/

I am so happy to have the time to just wander and read the various notes that are provided (I opt out of renting the audio tour), and will return the next day with a guide from the CroisiEurope Elbe Princess who will point out the details that I have missed in the famed St. Vitus Cathedral, Royal Palace and Basilica of St George (I note the relief outside of St. George slaying the dragon, symbolic of the Church defeating paganism). (Some of the Castle sites were closed, including the Rosenberg Palace).

St George slays the dragon © Karen Rubin/

The Castle is a vast complex and today is the seat of the Czech Republic’s government (a flag is raised when the president is in).

A few tidbits: Cathedral St. Vitus was built between 1344 and not finished until 1929. Half of the Cathedral is “new”. The two original architects are buried within the Cathedral, and in the most elaborate tomb of all is Charles IV, himself, who did so much to build the “New Town” of Prague, the cathedral, and the university.  The Bohemian Crown jewels are kept within a hidden room inside, and seven keys – each one held by a different official – are needed to open it. In a small chapel, I note actual skeleton remains peeking out through a window.

Basilica St. George within Prague Castle © Karen Rubin/

There are horrific stories, too. Ludmilla, with her husband sought to convert the country to Christianity, was killed assassins hired by her daughter-in-law, Drahomira of Stodor, who was jealous of Ludmila’s influence over Wenceslaus (her son and Ludmilla’s grandson). Soon after Ludmilla was canonized. Wenceslaus (widely referred to as Good King Wenceslaus) was killed by his brother around 935 and also was made a saint.

Basilica St. George within Prague Castle © Karen Rubin/

It’s interesting who becomes a saint. An extremely popular saint, prominent in the cathedral, is St. John of Nepomuk, the court priest of King Wenceslas IV. Legend has it that he was killed by request of the king, because he refused to tell the king about the queen’s confession, and his body thrown off the Charles Bridge. When you go to the Charles Bridge, you can see the statue (one of 30 that line the bridge) depicting this story, where the tradition is to touch his image in order to return to Prague, and walk a few steps to the place where his body was thrown into the water, in 1383.

Basilica St. George within Prague Castle © Karen Rubin/

In the Royal Palace, we go into a gigantic hall, that dates from 1492, where jousts (on horseback) were held. It is an architectural achievement because it was built without supports for the ceiling.

We learn that Empress Maria Theresa, who brought compulsory education to Europe and was responsible for a major rebuilding of the castle, was the mother of 16 including Joseph II who ruled from 1780-90 and freed the serfs (as well as liberalizing restrictions on the Jews); his sister was Marie Antoinette who lost her head in the French Revolution.

There is a portrait of Joseph II in a ceremonial room where there are replicas of the crown and septre that are hidden away.

The best part is going into the room that was the scene of the “Defenestration of Prague,” a key event in European history. In 1618, the Protestant rebels threw two Catholic Imperial Ministers and their secretary out of these windows. Surviving the fall (they fell on a pile of refuse in the moat), they took refuge in the adjoining Lobkowicz Palace where they were protected by Polyxena.  (The scene is immortalized in a painting which you can view in the palace.) The Defenestration of Prague signaled the beginning of a Bohemian revolt against the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand II, leading to the Thirty Years’ War.

But I am grateful for having the time to really linger on the Golden Lane, my favorite part of the castle – there is simply so much to see.

This, I grin to myself, is where the “tiny house” trend was born.

Golden Lane within Prague Castle © Karen Rubin/

Golden Lane has a marvelous history. It’s  an irregular strip of land, varying in width from 4-8 meters between the older (12th C) Romanesque walls and the later (15th C) walls that form the outer north fortification of Prague Castle on the edge of a natural ravine, the Stag Moat. Three defensive towers are attached to the castle wall (up to 320 cm thick): Powder Tower on the west, Dalibor Tower on the east and between them, White Tower. And between Dalibor and White towers, 12 vaults, each 720 cm deep and 600-660cm wide, were used as makeshift dwellings.

Number 15, Golden Lane, as it would have been when the Goldsmith occupied it (there is a bird cage to alert the goldsmith when there were toxic fumes) © Karen Rubin/
Number 15, Golden Lane, as it would have been when the Goldsmith occupied it (there is a bird cage to alert the goldsmith when there were toxic fumes) © Karen Rubin/

The oldest written reports are from 1560s when the lane was called Goldsmith’s Lane – its residents were probably “lesser” goldsmiths who had fled the strictly enforced guild laws in Prague’s three towns of Old Town, New Town and Lesser Town. We get to see one of these tiny houses, Number 15, as it would have been when the Goldsmith occupied it (there is a bird cage to alert the goldsmith when there were toxic fumes).

Tiny houses as they would have been © Karen Rubin/

In 1597, artillerymen at the gates asked Emperor Rudolf II for permission to build little rooms within the newly repaired walls. The Red Artillerymen (named for their uniform) had to build their dwellings at their own expense, and bought and sold them. We get to see one of the houses, Number 13, that would have been inhabited by a Red Artilleryman.

A Red Artilleryman’s tiny house © Karen Rubin/

The Red Artillerymen served without fixed salary but were exempt from paying tax and lived in the castle for nothing. There were 24 Red Artillerymen guarding the gates and were subordinate to the Castle Governor. In 1597, they asked Emperor Rudolf II for permission to block the niches in the newly reconstructed castle walls and establish rooms. Their most important source of revenue came from services they performed for the nobles who were imprisoned in the White Tower and Dalibor Tower – they acted as servants, cooks, stokers, and mail carriers in addition to being prison guards. The Red Artillerymen unit was disbanded by Emperor Joseph II in 1784.

Not long after, little houses began to expand into the lane with the addition and fireplaces; new additions made. Hardly idyllic, conditions for basic hygiene remained backward. In the 18th century, there was only one privy for all the houses, a second one was only installed in the 19th century. Water pipes were laid in 1877, but it wasn’t until 1942 that the house at Number 24 had running water.

In 1953, the office of Czech president (which is within the Castle complex) expropriated the little houses from their owners.  The lane was restored in 1955 by architect Pavel Janik, and the façade colors chosen by painter and animator Jiri Trnka. The last reconstruction of Golden Lane took place in 2010-11, with a new drainage system and repaving, the tiny houses were underpinned and repaired, the facades repainted, and the Defense Passage and White Tower restored.

Right up to the departure of the last tenant, in 1952, the Golden Lane community was very colorful. At first, it consisted of Castle employees – gatekeepers, guards, bellringers –and later, people who rented, many who appreciated this place as a source of inspiration.

When you see groups of tiny children coming through, you realize what a fantasy place this is – they stop in front of one that seems out of a fairytale.

Several names in the land records that have been preserved are notable:

No 22 was the home of Franz Kafka in 1916 and 1917, who rented it from his sister. It was here that he wrote “The Country Doctor.” (The house is now a bookshop with Kafka’s books prominently featured; several other tiny houses have been turned into marvelous shops.)

No 22 was the home of Franz Kafka in 1916 and 1917, where he wrote “The Country Doctor.” Today it is a bookshop with Kafka’s novels prominently featured © Karen Rubin/

House No 12 was in the late 1930s the temporary home of the dramatist and writer of prose fiction Jiri Maranek.  “In the romantic atmosphere of the lane and in everyday contact with the past, he found inspiration for his writing, particularly for his historical novels and short stories”

No 14 still has an old sign with playing cards, an owl and a crystal ball. For years this was the home of the renowned Prague tarot-card reader and clairvoyant Madame de Thebes.  Before the Second World War, Matylda Prusova (her real name), the widow of a phamarcist, drew attention from afar with her black clothing and old-fashioned hat adorned with ostrich feathers. Since 1914, she had waited in vain for the return of her son who was killed in the first World War. Clients came daily to her cozy room, stuffed with bizarre objects, to have her look into their future. Because of her frequent predictions about an early end to the war and the fall of the Third Reich, she was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured to death.

No 24 was the House of Mrs. Magdalena. By the early 20th c, Golden Lane was already famous and she charged the growing number of tourists and history lovers to see her tiny house. Other enterprising owners rented to artists, writers looking for inspiration.

Number 27 was the Herbalist’s house. This essential skill of treating wounds, curing diseases, and easing suffering was always managed by one of the servants of the Castle, the notes say. Folk healers and herbalists often had enough experience to carry a certificate stating that someone was successfully cured by them. Herbalists used herbs and botanical extracts but also magic and incantation. The herbalist’s household resembled an apothecary – bottles, jugs, boxes containing nectars from plants, purgative and tonic opiates, powders for curing teeth, throat and roundworm, plasters, seeds and sugar coated flowers. A trunk or cupboard would contain snail shells, human craniums, pig’s teeth, bones from the sea spider (octopus) and dried frogs. Ceramic jars had lards from dog, human, tom cat, stork, rabbit, bear and snake.

It’s especially fun to wander through the house of a film critic – seeing the old movie posters, the clutter of cans of film, the movie projectors, as if he recently left.

A 1920s film critic’s house © Karen Rubin/

I climb a narrow, spiral staircase to an upper floor where there is an astonishing exhibit of arms and armor (really intimidating helmets). And in the Dalibor Tower, a prison from 1496 to 1781, there is a horrifying display of implements of torture. You realize that those movies depicting Dark Ages brutality were not fiction or fantasy. You can see the rack, a skeleton hung in a cage, the “Spanish boot.”

In Dalibor Tower, a prison from 1496 to 1781, there is a horrifying display of implements of torture © Karen Rubin/

We are told that the most famous of the prisoners was the knight Dalibor Kozojed, imprisoned because he backed rebels and confiscated property. After two years of bread and water, he was sentenced to forfeit “his chattels, his honour and his head” and was executed in the courtyard in 1498. Much later, the romantic legend of Dalibor and his fiddle emerged: Supposedly, out of boredom, he played the violin so masterfully in prison that people came from far and wide to listen, enraptured. But it turns out that “fiddle” was a nickname for an instrument of torture:  a rack (which we see) on which the convicted man was stretched until he began “to fiddle” – change his tune and confess.

In Dalibor Tower, a prison from 1496 to 1781, there is a horrifying display of implements of torture © Karen Rubin/

I find the place extremely disturbing (a skeleton is in a cage dangling from the ceiling as you walk down the stone stairs), but a group of school kids seem enthralled.

When I come out from Golden Lane, I look across to see the Lobkowicz Palace and realize it is included on the Prague Cool Pass ( This turns out to be the absolute highlight for me in Prague. The Palace, itself, is fabulous, owned by a noble family that was once one of the richest in the land. The collection inside is breathtaking. And the family’s story is utterly fascinating.


© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at

‘The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do’ at Museum of Jewish Heritage Holds Lessons, Warning for Today

Seeing the faces, meeting “ordinary people living through extraordinary times,” whose lives, and world were turned upside down, and seeing the same worrying patterns today, is the point of “The Holocaust: What Hate Can D,” the new exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.  © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

The visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s new exhibit, “The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do” kind of bookended for me my recent trip to Europe, where I started in Prague and visited the Jewish Quarter and Shoah Memorial, on through Dresden, Meissen, Wittenberg and Magdeburg t, into Berlin. In Dordrecht, Netherlands, I walked on a sidewalk with metal plaques recalling the names of the Jewish families taken from here, and onward to Amsterdam where I visited its Jewish Quarter, with its Holocaust Memorial and Jewish Museum (couldn’t get into the Anne Frank house though because tickets book up well in advance.)..

In this exhibit, I see the faces and personal effects of people who would have come from these places – a shaving brush that belonged to Yaacov Mordechai Satt in the Lodz ghetto has a hollowed out handle as a hiding place for a gold chain given to him by his mother; a piece of soap given to Esther Tikotzki to wash with after she was deported to Theresienstadt (Terezin), just outside Prague; a wooden ornament made by a pharmacist, later murdered at Auschwitz, given to Erika Jolinkova who was deported from Prague with her school friend Gertrude Jojtasova to Theresienstadt (Terezin).

A shaving brush that belonged to Yaacov Mordechai Satt in the Lodz ghetto has a hollowed out handle as a hiding place for a gold chain given to him by his mother © Karen Rubin/

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is devoted to keeping alive the lessons of the Holocaust, which are resonating with all the more volume and pitch today. Putin’s brutal, torturous invasion of Ukraine. The Christo Fascist Supreme Court ending women’s reproductive freedom, autonomy and self-determination, immediately turning half the population into 3/5 of a person. Deciding cases based on Christian orthodoxy; overturning the Separation of Church and State, from Hobby Lobby to allowing a coach to proselytize to players. Marginalizing gays, criminalizing speech, banning books, an attempted violent overthrow of a democratically elected government. A record number of antisemitic hate crimes, as political terror, intimidation and violence take hold in mainstream political life.

What you realize as you go through the first floor of the exhibit is how the cancer takes hold – starting slow and steadily but the coup de gras coming even overnight. Women in the United States can now see this exhibit with different eyes, having gone to sleep believing they had freedom and equality and waking up second-class citizens, lacking bodily autonomy, self-determination and in some places, having their movements tracked and their ability to travel curtailed.

And implicit is the question of the choices and decisions that are made. “Who could have imagined?” can no longer be an excuse for standing by.

“Sadly, the exhibit has taken on new urgency: resistance, immigration, invasion taken on new meaning,” says Michael Berenbaum, consulting curator. “Solidarity in the wake of evil takes on new meaning. We thought this was ancient history. We little imagined how vital the message is in this day, in our time.

“Sadly, the exhibit has taken on new urgency: resistance, immigration, invasion taken on new meaning,” says Michael Berenbaum, consulting curator. “Solidarity in the wake of evil takes on new meaning. We thought this was ancient history. We little imagined how vital the message is in this day, in our time. Events that gave rise to Holocaust are thought to only be in the past, but echoes in our world.” © Karen Rubin/

 “Events that gave rise to Holocaust are thought to only be in the past, but echoes in our world. This reminds people…They understand more clearly what it means to fight for honor, to resist. They understand when seeing people fleeing for life, they need to be welcomed. If this causes people to think twice, to reflect, to imagine what you can do to make a better world, then we have succeeded,” Berenbaum says during a press preview.

This major new exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust that has just opened, The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do offers an expansive and timely presentation of Holocaust history told through personal stories, objects, photos, and film—many on view for the first time. 

The 12,000-square-foot exhibition features over 750 original objects and survivor testimonies from the Museum’s collection. Together, these objects tell a global story through a local lens, rooted in objects donated by survivors and their families, many of whom settled in New York and nearby places, which is resonating with eerie and frightening relevance today.

In keeping with the Museum’s mission to educate people of all ages and backgrounds on the broad tapestry of Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust, the exhibition features countless beginnings, middles, and too many endings that make up the stories of The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do. Each room, and each object, contains generations of experiences and information about who Jews are, what sustains Jewish communities, and what life was like during the period of European modernization, World War I, and the political and social movements that brought about the rise of the Nazi Party. Within the Holocaust experiences of legalized racism and fascism, pogroms, ghettos, mass murder, and concentration camps are instances of personal and global decision-making, escape, resistance, and resilience, and ultimately liberation and new beginnings. 

“The title of our new exhibition speaks to our institution’s very reason for being,” says Museum President & CEO Jack Kliger. “Antisemitism and fascism are again on the rise throughout the world. Right here in New York, we have witnessed not only a surge in antisemitism but an uptick in violence and harassment targeting many marginalized groups. The time to speak out and act is upon us, and it is urgent. We hope The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do will educate and inspire our visitors and honor those who perished in the Holocaust, whose memories are a blessing.”

At the opening of “The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do”at the Museum of Jewish Heritage: Paul Salmons, consulting curator and creative developer; Michael Berenbaum, consulting curator; Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Toby Levy, Holocaust survivor and member of Speakers Bureau; Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum © Karen Rubin/

Paul Salmons, consulting curator and creative developer of the digital guide that accompanies the exhibit, and is available to all on Bloomberg Connects, raises the question of “what was known, what choices, what decisions, what significance of their action. The Holocaust is not a story of faceless victims or bystanders. It is a profoundly human story. That was our challenge when we created the audio guide. The intensely personal stories behind the artifacts, the documents, the personal  stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”

The exhibit also tells the story of resistance, escape and survival © Karen Rubin/

Indeed, so many of the objects on view are those everyday items –an engagement ring fashioned from a silver spoon given by Eli Rigman to Henny Rosenbaum on August 22, 1943, to mark their engagement while they were imprisoned in the Riga ghetto. She kept it on even after Eli was killed cleaning minefields, even as she was deported to several camps and during forced labor in 1944, her fingers swelled from the cold causing the ring to crack, even so, she kept the engagement ring on”. There is a photo that brings chills, of the happy couple celebrating with their friends, another photo of Henny Rosenbaum from 1937 shows this happy young woman.

An engagement ring fashioned from a silver spoon given by Eli Rigman to Henny Rosenbaum on August 22, 1943, to mark their engagement while they were imprisoned in the Riga ghetto. She kept it on, even after Eliwas killed cleaning minefields, even as she was deported to several camps and during forced labor in 1944, her fingers swelled from the cold causing the ring to crack, even so, she kept the engagement ring on.” © Karen Rubin/

They create a thread for the visitor to follow one family – the bag used to scavenge scarce food in the ghetto, the cooking pot the family used. The wonder is how they were able to trace back these objects to the people, connect with their stories, even photographs.

“We address common myths and misconception that Jews didn’t fight back or resist.” On display is a shirt that one of the freedom fighters wore in the forest – there were 30,000 Jewish partisan fighters in the forests of Eastern Europe. They fought the German occupation and rescued Jews – 1200 Jewish refugees lived in one camp which had its own medical center and school.

“We were unrecognizable as women.” © Karen Rubin/

They fought back and resisted in other ways, as the exhibit shows. Fighting the dehumanization, they fashioned ID bracelet;  a Star of David necklace made by Margit Rosenfeld in Auschwitz using material from the inside of her shoes and brown thread from her garments. “Something of their identity, their past life in a place of utter dehumanization.” They also secretly observed religious service, taught school, some were able to create art, music.

A Star of David necklace made by Margit Rosenfeld in Auschwitz using material from the inside of her shoes and brown thread from her garments. “Something of their identity, their past life in a place of utter dehumanization.” © Karen Rubin/

The films that have been made, the powerful survivors testimony, and the audio notes narrated by … are available to museum goers as well as people who do not personally visit, on Bloomberg Connects app, which can be downloaded for free. The Bloomberg Connects partnership allows access to the museum’s collections and educational resources. “The partnership demonstrates the commitment of the museum to make this vital story accessible.”

Toby Levy, a Holocaust survivor and a member of the museum’s Speakers Bureau, relates, “The year I was born, in Poland (now Ukraine, near Lebov), was the same year Hitler came to power.  Jews lived in this place for 1000 years. Life was OK. My father was a merchant – I don’t remember much. We lived nicely until 1939. In a divided Europe, our part was in Russia. But in 1941, Germany broke the pact. We tried to run, but there was no place to run. We were locked in and out. No help from anywhere, especially in my part of Poland. The first day the Germans walked in, they made it clear who they are and who we are and where we’re going.

Holocaust survivor Toby Levy, a member of Museum of Jewish Heritage Speakers Bureau:“I have my revenge. I am alive, enjoying my life, have Jewish children, grand children, great grand children.” But she warned against “revived anti-Semitism. I’m scared now, not for me – I’m old – but for my children, grandchildren. Everyone must become a witness. Be a witness for me when I’m gone.” © Karen Rubin/

“My father realized immediately that none of us will make it, even though my father had been a German soldier in World War I. He realized these weren’t the same Germans, that the Germans were lying. Germans used the language of deception when they said they would relocate Jews. There were 5000 Jews in our town. Some say Jews followed like sheep. But we had no place to go.

“My father approached many people to try to find someone who would hide us. Stephanie Struck said she would. We were a family of four, then my aunt and uncle and their children, grandparent, we became 9 people. Two Ukrainians saved 9.” The family remained in hiding in her barn from 1942-1944.

“In hiding, my father talked had a tallit and whatever money he had; he gave material to Stephanie for food.  We were four children – 4, 6, 8, 12 years old. I was 8. My father tried to teach us not to hate. “Hate will bring you to where you are today. Be kind, be moral, be a good person.”

“I have my revenge,” she says. “I am alive, enjoying my life, have Jewish children, grand children, great grand children.”

But she warned that antisemitism is very much revived. I’m scared now, not for me – I’m old – but for my children, grandchildren. Everyone must become a witness. Be a witness for me when I’m gone. Understand what it is to be antisemitic. That’s how started in Germany – language, media has to understand what anti-Semite is. Colleges are full of it. Our children are not prepared because they take for granted [religious freedom in the United States].”

Indeed, one of America’s great historic figures, a leading capitalist, Henry Ford, was a leading proponent and propagandist for antisemitism. I knew he was an anti-Semite but did not realize that he propagated antisemitism through his newspaper, in which he serialized the Protocols of the elders of Zion.

A Brazilian edition of “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” © Karen Rubin/

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion fabricated records detailing secret meetings of Jewish leaders planning world domination – is the most widely circulated antisemitic text of modern times,” the notes that accompany copies say. Plagiarized from a 19th century French book unrelated to the Jews, Protocols (author unknown) it  was first published in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. In 1920 Henry Ford used it as the basis for ‘The International Jew’ article series in his newspaper. In 1938, American priest Father Charles Coughlin serialized The Protocols in new newspaper, ‘Social Justice,’ and  the book played an important role in the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda campaign. “Some still believe its claims today.” Indeed, the imagery of an international Jewish cabal of financiers and media moguls is being used by MAGA candidates and elected and is so often connected to charges of those who advocate for social justice and economic opportunity as socialists and communists.

So it is understandable why Henry Ford, a pioneering industrialist, would embrace anti-Semitism.

The exhibit notes, “Antisemitism flourished in early 20th century America. The Great Wave of Immigration (1881-1914) brought 2.2 million Eastern European Jews to America, fleeing persecution and seeking opportunity. They were often met with suspicion, and even violence. The 1917 Russian Revolution raised fears of Jewish immigrants being internationalists and Bolsheviks. In 1915, an Atlanta mob hung Leo Frank, accused of murdering a 13-year old girl. During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan targeted Blacks, Catholics and Jews. Car manufacturer Henry Ford published the International Jew in his Dearborn Independent newspaper. Based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which described an international Jewish ruling conspiracy, the article series alleged such a conspiracy was infiltrating America. It ran from 1920 to 1924, reaching hundreds of thousands of readers.”

Antisemitic caricature depicting Jews profited from the war, likely World War I. © Karen Rubin/

(Also on view is a letter of apology that Henry Ford was forced to write under a legal settlement after being sued by for by Jewish publisher Herman Bernstein for libel against himself and against the Jews of America. See

The letter of apology that Henry Ford was forced to write under a legal settlement after being sued by for by Jewish publisher Herman Bernstein for libel against himself and against the Jews of America is on view.

It is an important exercise to see how antisemitism is cultivated, developed, spread and used as a weapon of power – the theme that dominates the first floor of the exhibit – and then the effect on ordinary people, how their lives are upended, a dominant theme of the second-floor of the exhibit.

There were efforts to sound the alarm in the United States and in the world that were ignored © Karen Rubin/

But there is a flip side – the story of resilience, resistance and survival – and ultimately the responsibility of the others – the leaders of other countries, the foundations and organizations, the bystanders. The exhibit concludes with the formation of Israel, the immigration of Jews to America and other places, the Nuremburg trials which were supposed to make Hitler-wannabes think twice.

“America must act now.” An advertisement in the New York Times pleading for help for Jews © Karen Rubin/

I learn for the first time of the Ritchie Boys – German-Jewish refugees, originally considered “enemy aliens” who were recruited to be an advanced intelligence combat unit. Trained at Fort Ritchie, Maryland, they were returned to Europe where they had just escaped, risking their lives to use their linguistic and cultural skills for combat, interrogation and lie detection. They fought in major battles and succeeded in gleaning tactical information from captured German soldiers. After the Allied victory, the Ritchie Boys interrogated thousands of war criminals and civilians. We meet “Ritchie Boy” Fred Neumann who emigrated to the US in the 1930s, enlisted in 1942, and worked as an interrogator and investigated the Ohrdruf and Buchenwald concentration camps.

“Ritchie Boy” Fred Neumann emigrated to the US in the 1930s, enlisted in 1942, and worked as an interrogator and investigated the Ohrdruf and Buchenwald concentration camps. © Karen Rubin/

“Working on The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do has been one of the high points of my professional career,” says co-curator Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, Professor and Director of Holocaust Research in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, I have always taught my students, through stories and documentation, about what happened, and why it happened. Here, for the first time, I can actually show people how it happened and to whom it happened through hundreds of objects and graphics, most from the Museum’s collection, via the stories of the people behind the artifacts, through wall texts and an audio guide, documentary films and survivor testimonies, all put together in a unique and thought-provoking display. The Holocaust may be part of the past, but hatred, and what it can do, are very much part of our present. This path-breaking exhibition serves as a stark reminder of what can happen if that hatred is not stopped in time.”

The exhibition was curated by a team of esteemed Holocaust scholars, historians, and Museum curators that included Professor Baumel-Schwartz, Scott Miller, Ilona Moradof, and Rebecca Frank, and consulting curators Professor Michael Berenbaum and Paul Salmons. The Scholars Advisory Group included Dr. Mehnaz M. Afridi, Dr. Charles L. Chavis, Jr., Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, Atina Grossman, and Paul Wasserman. 

“It is a particular point of pride for our institution that this exhibition gives new life to the Museum’s collection. The hundreds of artifacts, many of them donated by survivors, that visitors will experience were all donated to our institution with extraordinary trust and vision, and we are grateful. Each offers up its own story, and together these artifacts present an irrefutable record of history,” says the Museum’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Bruce Ratner. 

The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do is the Museum’s first exhibition to open in its core galleries since its award-winning and widely acclaimed Auschwitz. Not Long ago. Not far away. concluded last spring.

“We are proud and honored to be long-time supporters of The Museum of Jewish Heritage, an eternal memorial to those who perished, but also a beacon of hope: the hope that through learning from history we can avoid repeating the tragedies of the past. We are privileged to support this important new exhibition and the expansion of the Museum’s vital educational mission,” says Lily Safra, Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, a lead funder of the exhibition.

The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do is an important exhibit, highlighting the impact of unchecked hatred. It is imperative that future generations understand that the Holocaust was not only a state-sponsored murder of the Jews but was, in many cases, also a communal act of complacency. Only through education can we begin to understand the outcomes bigotry and social silence inflicted on the Jewish people during the Holocaust. It is our job to give voice to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in that annihilation and to help future generations avoid the same complacency,” says Gideon Taylor, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, a lead funder of the exhibition.

Photos of Child Prisoners at Auschwitz: Auschwitz-Birkenau identification photos of child inmates were taken by Polish portrait photographer and prisoner Wilhem Brasse,, ordered to document prisoners in the camp by SS administrators. From top left to bottom right: an unidentified Ukrainian boy, Mamet Merenstein, Anatol Wanukiewicz, Anna Weclawik, Czeslawa Kwoka, Janina Bleiberg, Helena Zalewska, Jadwiga Repec, Jozefa Glazowska, Alex Meller, Krystyna Trzesniewska, and Emilia Lis.

“We were eight brothers and one sister with loving parents; only me and my brother Yankel survived. I am from Lodz and was in the Lodz and Warsaw ghettos, the Deblin and Auschwitz death camps, and on the death march from Magdeburg. As a survivor, number 189897, I feel a responsibility to teach the lessons of the Holocaust—that hate is an insidious murderer of humanity. May we never forget those who perished in the Holocaust, and may we always be courageous in standing up to hate. This is why I am so happy to support the work that the Museum of Jewish Heritage is doing, especially in such an important city like New York, that embraces its diversity as a strength,” says benefactor David Wiener.

Prisoner Number issued to Dora Krymalowska, Wittenberg, Germany, Feb. 1944-April 26, 1945. Dora Krymalowska wore this prisoner number while doing forced labor at a German airplane factory. The yellow bar signifies she is Jewish, the red triangle with black P signifies Polish © Karen Rubin/

“Eighty years ago, on May 29,1942, my great grandparents Berel and Sara Fish Hy”d and Velvel and Zissel Poltorak Hy”d perished in mass shootings alongside 287 other Jewish families (over 800 people), all of whom were relatives and friends in Yanushpol (renamed Ivanapol after the War), Ukraine,” says Eli Gurfel, a major donor. “I honor their memories with my support of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the importance it places on diverse Holocaust scholarship to broaden Holocaust awareness and education. As Elie Weisel said, ‘Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.’ Especially given current events in Ukraine, my hope is visitors will see this exhibition and come away with broader understandings of what happens when hate and bigotry go unchecked.”

The audio tour guide accompanying the exhibition, available for download through the free Bloomberg Connects app, features narration from actress Julianna Margulies, winner of eight Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Golden Globe, and Eleanor Reissa, the Tony-nominated director, Broadway and television actress, prize-winning playwright, author of the memoir “The Letters Project: A Daughter’s Journey,” and former artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell, acclaimed vocalist and Yiddishist, and actress Lauren Lebowitz are also featured on the audio guide, for which Paul Salmons Associates provided creative development (Paul Salmons, tour concept and historical interpretation; Leah Kharibian, scriptwriter).

The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do is made possible with leadership support from The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, The Oster Family, Patti Askwith Kenner and Family, Edmond J. Safra Foundation, and Evelyn Seroy in memory of her parents Julius & Ruth Eggener. 

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here ($18/Adults, $12 ADA/Access, Seniors, Students, Veterans; FREE to children under 12 and NYC DOE K-12 students; FREE to Holocaust Survivors, active members of the military, first responders).

Museum hours: Sunday, Wednesday, Friday: 10AM to 5PM; Thursday: 10AM to 8PM; closed on all other days, on Jewish Holidays, and on Thanksgiving.

A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The Museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The third-largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second-largest in North America, the Museum of Jewish Heritage anchors the southernmost tip of Manhattan, completing the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage maintains a collection of almost 40,000 artifacts, photographs, documentary films, and survivor testimonies and contains classrooms, a 375-seat theater (Edmond J. Safra Hall), special exhibition galleries, a resource center for educators, and a memorial art installation, Garden of Stones, designed by internationally acclaimed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The Museum is the home of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and JewishGen.

In addition to The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do, also on view is Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try, a first of its kind exhibition on the 20th century artist and Holocaust survivor on view through November 6, 2022.

Each year, the Museum presents over 60 public programs, connecting our community in person and virtually through lectures, book talks, concerts, and more. For more info visit:

The Museum receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts.

Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, 36 Battery Place, New York City,,646-437-4202.


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A Stone’s Throw From Daytona Beach, Finding ‘Florida as it Used to Be’

Snack Jack’s along A1A just north of Ormond Beach, retains the vibe of “Florida as it used to be.” © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

To be candid, I would not have traveled to Florida except for a special occasion presenting an opportunity to visit with family I haven’t seen in quite some time. Luckily, this is a mere week before Omnicron hit with such fury or is even a thing, but I still don’t feel Florida particularly appealing for a long list of reasons.

My destination is the immensely popular Daytona Beach area. So even though Omnicron has yet to hit and though I am triple vaxxed, because of Florida’s contempt for preventive public health measures, I remain extremely vigilant in using a mask, staying outdoors as much as possible and avoiding crowds – even the wedding I attend is a small, intimate affair held outside.

Fortunately, the Ormond Beach area, a mere few miles north of Daytona Beach, and north along the famed Highway A1A, where, my cousin – a native Floridian – takes me, is the fabled “Real Florida,” and provides the perfect setting.

Lotus Inn, a delightful boutique hotel on Ormond Beach, with its pool stunningly lit at night © Karen Rubin/

I stay in a delightful boutique hotel, the Lotus Inn, refurbished with chic touches (stunning pool, fire pit, landscaping), right on the beach, so that each morning, I can grab a cup of coffee from the lounge and walk out onto the beach before the sun rises, when the colors begin to burst in the sky.

I do this each of the four mornings of my visit, and each day, the experience is very different and dramatic in its own way – the colors most vibrant on the first day, a tad less so on the second but the experience enhanced when I discover Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise for something like 10 years, posting them and drawing his own following, as well as taking photos for visitors. There are other regulars I get to meet as well, which includes a flock of seabirds who are drawn to this one spot because of a woman who comes each day with crackers (sharing with visitors who delight in the experience). The colors are different on the third day, but now I focus on the activity – the regulars who come, like the group of swimmers in their wetsuits, who come no matter the season. My fourth morning, there isn’t a sunrise at all, but I get to see the beach in its moody blue-grey colors.

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/

Even though you can see Daytona Beach from Ormond Beach, the atmosphere here is completely different. Here there are mostly low-rise, low-density hotels like mine, the Lotus Inn.

My first night in Ormond Beach, I drive my rental car the four miles down A1A to Daytona Beach and walk the charming boardwalk, really enjoying discovering the 1930s-era Bandstand, coming upon the boardwalk games, and then the long pier itself, alight in neon announcing Joe’s at the end, with a stunning view back at the shoreline. I also get a glimpse of the heart pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill rides at Screamer’s Park.

The Bandshell on Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/
Eat at Joe’s on the Daytona Beach pier © Karen Rubin/
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/
Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/

Now of course, Daytona Beach is famous for auto racing and the Daytona 500 – that began on the beach (cars are still allowed in specific lanes, and plenty of people bike on the flat, hard sand, which became the International Speedway. I would venture that most who come are car people, and touring the speedway and visiting the Racing Hall of Fame are musts. The Daytona International Speedway has just undergone a $400 million “reimagining” and transformed into a state-of-the-art motorsports facility. You can even get behind the wheel of an actual race car with NASCAR Racing Experience and take laps around the world famous 2.5-mile Speedway. (“Speedway Tours” run multiple times  each day; tour tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis, and include the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America,

Daytona International Speedway © Karen Rubin/

I stop by for a look at the gi-normous stadium, how it is banked at a 30-degree angle so the cars don’t just fly off at the turns, but spend my time discovering what my cousin, Ray Weiss, a former journalist, calls “Florida as it used to be.”

Ray drives me up the famous A1A, to Ormond by the Sea up to Flagler Beach, which cannot be more un-touristy. Here, he stresses, you can still park your car alongside the two-lane road (they call it a highway), on a patch of sand bordered with sea grass, and walk right onto the beach – such a contrast to Daytona Beach, which seems to be competing to have as many high rises and parking meters as Miami Beach. (My cousin describes Daytona Beach perfectly: “a bit of an Atlantic City feel with a redneck flair.”)

“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/

This stretch between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach, though, is exactly as he has described it and what he cherishes – there are the colorful, weatherworn, funky beach places, miles of undeveloped open beach (vacant of people) and thousands of acres of pristine land called the Loop – woods, water and marshland. “It’s like stepping back in time to what the rest of Florida once looked like when the Seminoles were here,” he says. He should know because my first memory as a child was visiting his family in old Miami and seeing Seminole Indians wrestling alligators.

Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/
Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/

Flagler Beach is a Florida town that is seems stuck in the 1950s. No high-rises here, only modest houses on the beach. (My thoughts alternate between thinking that the property they sit on would be $1-2 million in Long Island, and thinking that sea level rise caused by the climate change Florida’s governor denies makes them worthless.)  Ray points out several old style restaurants, stopping at Snack Jack’s right on the beach – his favorite and I can see why.

Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/

Back in Ormond Beach, we stop to visit The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, so beautifully set on the river.

The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/

On my own, I also discover some of the attractions that make actually living here wonderful – starting with the Museum of Arts and Science (MOAS).

When I arrive, I ask the receptionist what is special, what should I definitely look out for. She replies, “Well, we have the biggest collection of Coca Cola bottles, and a skeleton of a giant sloth.”

Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/
Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/

Walking into the Coca-Cola collection, you can’t help but let out an actual “Wow,” It turns out that the guy who invented and manufactured that classic glass Coke bottle in Indiana, Chapman J. Root (he got 5c royalty on every bottle sold), also had interests in Coca-Cola bottling plants in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, and when he retired, his grandson Chapman S. Root took over the company and moved it, in 1951, to Daytona Beach. Over a 50-year period, Chapman S. Root and his wife Susan Root Fieblman, collected some 100,000 objects that make up the $5 million Root Family Museum collection – probably the largest of Coca-Cola memorabilia – housed within MOAS. We see not only a timeline of all the bottles and bottling equipment, but the delivery trucks, the different vending machines, all with the trademark Coca Cola red color. It is pure Americana – both for the Coca-Cola cultural iconography and the story of an entrepreneur and innovator making good. (See: For Coke Fans, Collection is ‘The Real Thing’,

The Giant Sloth at MOAS, discovered just 2 ½ miles away © Karen Rubin/

Then I walk into the “Natural Florida” exhibit and there it is. When you think of “sloth” you might think of Sid in the “Ice Age” movies. Now imagine The Hulk but probably three or four times the size. The skeleton of the Eremotherium – the largest sloth to have ever existed – that we see assembled in its fearsome pose was collected just 2 ½ miles away. It would have weighed up to five tons and stood 15 feet tall – only the Wooly Mammoth was larger in the Western Hemisphere. Phenomenal.

A fantastic collection of African tribal masks, on view at MOAS © Karen Rubin/
The Warehouse at MOAS, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/

The rest of the museum has some fabulous, unexpected and eclectic collections: African tribal artifacts including incredible masks, Chinese art, and the American decorative arts collection of Anderson Child Bouchelle (a fifth generation Floridian, his father was Florida’s first cardiologist, brought to the state by Henry Flagler). I especially love “The Warehouse” where you can peek at treasures that otherwise would be stored away. (352 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32114, 386-255-0285,

Walk the nature trail outside MOAS © Karen Rubin/

Before leaving, I follow the Nature Trail that starts just outside the museum that takes you on a boardwalk into the jungle (note the sign that warns of such creatures as snakes and alligators).

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/

The next day, after my ritual beach walk to revel in the daily miracle of the sunrise, I go off to two other signature attractions, both very close together at the southern tip of the barrier island.

Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/
Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/

The modest but intimate Marine Science Center, is mainly an aquarium but also is where you can see its medical facilities where sea turtles are being restored to health (you can even watch operations through a glass) and a sanctuary for rescued birds. The small area is packed with fun things to look at, interact with and learn about Volusia County’s rich marine life – like how they are re-growing (not just restoring) coral so crucial to the survival of ecosystems. This is a delight for families with children (100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127, 386-304-5545,

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/
Walk up the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/

Nearby, The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, constructed in 1887, is a treasure. At 175 feet tall, the lighthouse is the highest in Florida and second highest in the country. You can walk up all 203 steps winding around and around, and step out for a 360-degree view. Most interesting are the other structures and buildings – all original – that you can visit and the exhibits that show the life and times of the lighthouse keepers, and wonderful videos showing the history. In the modern Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building, you can see a world-class Fresnel lens collection. There is also an exhibit of Cuban Rafts that carried refugees trying to make their way to freedom on these fragile homemade boats and rafts. There is really a lot to see and explore, including nature trails and you can walk out to a very long break-water. (4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127, 386-761-1821,

Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse has a world-class Fresnel lens collection. © Karen Rubin/

For more historic sites, you can trace the footsteps of educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune on a tour of her former home, and visit the historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark (where in 1946, a year before he broke the major league racial color barrier in Brooklyn, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Expos, the triple A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, after being rejected from other Florida cities, Ray relates).

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art © Karen Rubin/

The next day, I visit the extraordinary Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which is on the same campus as MOAS. This is the most astonishing find of all. Since 1997, the Browns made it their mission to collect art representing Florida. After being a traveling exhibit for some time, what is the largest collection of Florida art is now housed in this stunning, brand new two-level structure. The museum features a rotating collection of 2,600 Florida-themed oil and watercolor paintings. The Museum’s grand central gallery and mezzanine showcase the collection’s signature pieces, while six smaller galleries feature beautiful changing exhibitions with Florida themes. Most impressive are the way the paintings are selected, framed, how they are hung together, and the absolutely fascinating notes that accompany each and every one – not only a biography of the artist, but the context for the painting, something of history, and then really fascinating notes that are like a painting tutorial. (

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/
Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/
Jeffrey Dunne delights in taking photos for beachgoers on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/

While not my focus on this trip, I would be remiss not to include some of the immensely popular and new attractions in Daytona Beach:

Speedway Indoor Karting (SIK), which opened in late 2020, offers state-of-the-art electric powered karts and gives guests of all ages and skill levels a full racing experience on a 16- turn road course featuring multiple elevation changes and a slick tri-oval.

Daytona Lagoon Premier Waterpark and Family Entertainment Center, just north of the pier area and steps from the beach, added a wave maker Treasure Lagoon Wave Pool, arcade games, and two water slides: Kraken’s Revenge, a 54-foot-high, four-lane mat racer slide; and Shaka Halfpipe, a thrilling inner-tube experience that shoots riders backwards over a 50-foot drop. These new features, along with mini golf, go-karts, the MEGA arcade, and Sky Maze indoor ropes course make this a favorite year-round family spot.

More my speed: a new Riverfront Esplanade. The park that runs the length of historic downtown Daytona Beach is being transformed. When complete in 2022, the Riverfront Esplanade will extend a mile along the Halifax River and include a promenade along the water’s edge, running and walking trails, and landscaping designed to encourage relaxation and reflection including water features, shade trees and raised botanical gardens.

Interactive maps for themed trails are available on including the new Cars, Craft and Culture trail, Share The Heritage Trail, Monuments & Statues Trail, an Iconic Trail and a Motorsports Trail to add to its popular Hiking & Biking Trails and the Ale Trail.

For more information, Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,126 E. Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, 386-255-0415,


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Wilmington/Brandywine Mansions & Gardens Welcome Mobility-Challenged Visitors

The Sunken Garden at the Nemours Estate, Wilmington, DE © Laurie Millman/

By Laurie Millman and Martin Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

We’ve heard for years about the beautiful DuPont family mansions and gardens in the Wilmington, Delaware and Brandywine Valley region. With Marty now mobility-challenged, we set out on a long weekend to visit these fine architectural examples of Gilded, Industrial Age homes and gardens, to check out first-hand how the DuPont historic sites accommodate visitors with accessibility issues:

Winterthur Mansion and Gardens

The Winterthur grounds are expansive, with walking trails running through 1,000 acres of woods, meadowlands and farmland. Natural and groomed paths are also found throughout the 60-acre gardens surrounding the childhood home and country estate of Henry Francis DuPont (1880-1969). The Mansion complex includes the family home, botanical labs, Library and Museum galleries revolving exhibits.

A Dupont Family Home – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library© Laurie Millman/

Winterthur offers a number of accessibility options to tour the garden area and the mansion complex:  a) Companion-guided wheelchairs and strollers are available at no cost at the Visitor Center where you pick up your tickets, as well as at the Galleries Reception Atrium. b)  Shuttles and trams for touring the gardens and reaching the mansion and galleries have wheelchair lifts and ramps, and designated wheelchair spots that allow a wheelchair to be securely locked in place.  There is a sharp incline leading up to the mansion’s main entrance from the tram stop, which will require some effort to push a wheelchair up the hill; but once inside, it is easy to navigate around the main floor of the house with an accessibility device.

Guide and therapy dogs are allowed on the shuttle and tram, as well as in the buildings. Assistive listening systems are available for guided tours and special presentations. With at least one week’s notice, a sign-language interpreter can be hired for your visit. The grounds have restrooms with ADA bars and are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or mobile scooter.

Winterthur is open to the public from late February through mid-November.   Tour tickets are currently available by calling 800-448-3883, or on-site in the Visitor Center. Reserve a wheelchair when you make a tour reservation, to ensure availability when you arrive. To learn more about accessibility options at Winterthur, explore this link: For a virtual tour of Winterthur, go to

Winterthur Mansion and Gardens, 800-448-3883, 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 197350,

Nemours Estate

The early 20th century home and grounds of Alfred I. DuPont was designed in a late 18th-century French style. Nemours offers self-guided tours of the mansion. You will have to bring your own mobility devices, as the Estate does not rent wheelchairs, electric scooters or strollers, nor does it offer a shuttle or tram to tour around the 200 acres of grounds and gardens.

A fine example of a Gilded Age Home at the Nemours Estate, Wilmington, DE © Laurie Millman/

Nemours mansion and gardens is a hike from the parking lot. For those walking the grounds, wear comfortable walking shoes.   Although the roads and paths leading to the mansion are flat, paved, and accessible by wheelchair, scooter, and stroller, the garden paths are not paved nor handicap accessible.  However, between the beautifully manicured sunken gardens, reflection pools and Art-Nouveau statues, there is a wide overlook for picturesque views, which can be reached by a mobility device.

When arriving at the Nemours mansion, the staff is very accommodating for visitors traveling with mobile devices (strollers are not allowed inside): they put out small ramps to get our wheelchair over a few steps leading into the mansion’s main floor. Once inside, visitors take a self-guided tour of the two accessible floors. Nemours has a huge, grand spiraling staircase leading up to the bedrooms on the second floor. Alternatively, for assistance to go up to the second floor, a first floor mansion attendant will contact a member of the staff on the second floor and direct you to an elevator that opens to a mezzanine level. The second floor attendant will be waiting to assist with a stair lift to the second floor.

The Estate is open to visitors from April through December, with self-guided tours of the mansion and chauffeur’s garage. ADA bathrooms are located a short walk from the parking lot and in the mansion. Food and water are not available onsite, but visitors are encouraged to bring food and water, even to bring a blanket to picnic on the grounds.  Service animals are allowed on the grounds and in the mansion.

Nemours Estate, 600 Rockland Road, Wilmington, DE, 302-651-6912,

Hagley Museum and Library

The Hagley complex offers a hands-on learning experience for all ages about early American commerce and life. The 235 acres of the Hagley grounds, founded by E. I. DuPont in 1802 for manufacturing gunpowder, rise above the Brandywine River.  Open daily, Hagley currently offers small-group tours of the ancestral DuPont family home and garden. Interpretive docents and demonstrations are also found at the restored mill, the artisans building, and the Workers Hill Community, where the gunpowder works employees lived.

Pick up tickets for your timed tour at the Hagley Visitor Center and Gift Shop. A bus with a wheelchair lift leaves from the Visitor Center parking area.  Some areas of Hagley are not easily navigable in a mobility device – ask the staff in the Visitor Center to highlight those areas on a grounds map. To reserve a group tour or a lunch and learn tour, go to, call 302-658-2400, or email [email protected] Call or email to confirm wheelchair availability.

Hagley Museum and Library, 200 Hagley Creek Rd, Wilmington, DE, 302-658-2400,

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens was developed initially in the early 20th century by Pierre DuPont to be enjoyed by family and friends. To perpetuate and expand his vision, after DuPont died in the mid-1950s, the mission of the Gardens was to continue for public enjoyment and education.  This is one of our favorite gardens in the country and one of the largest in the world. With 1,100 acres of outdoor gardens, Longwood is open year-round for visitors (even Christmas Day!) to enjoy the ever-changing seasonal displays of outdoor natural beauty, along with “dancing” fountains scattered throughout the grounds and beautiful, indoor glass conservatories (one of them a massive 4.5 acres).

Conservatory at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA © Laurie Millman/

Over the past few years, the Main Fountain Garden area has been the location of beautiful fountain, light and fire shows with synchronized music. Fountain performances will resume on May 5, 2022. 

Longwood does not offer a shuttle or tram to tour around the large park, but the hilly garden paths are primarily paved and mobility device accessible, as well as most buildings. Visitors to Longwood Gardens are strongly recommended to bring their own mobility devices (strollers, wheelchairs and scooters with 3 or more wheels).  Through our experience, electric-powered mobility scooters will handle the steeper paths better than companion-pushed wheelchairs.  The Visitor’s Center offers a limited supply of electric scooters on a first-come, first-served basis, with a “pay as you wish” rental fee policy for the entirety of your visit – more of a donation than a fixed price. A limited number of free wheelchairs and strollers are also available at the Visitor’s Center. The Gardens provides many water fountains and bathrooms that are mobility device accessible. Service dogs are permitted on the grounds and in the buildings. With at least two week’s notice, a sign-language interpreter will be available for a private, guided group walking tour; amplified listening devices are also available for use on the private tours.

At this writing, the Gardens is selling timed tickets. Check out availability and ticket prices at

Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348, 610-388-1000,

As our experience shows, there is no reason not to continue to explore and experience attractions and destinations, just prepare in advance.

April is National Garden Month

April is National Garden Month. As the colors of spring begin to appear across Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, enjoy the warmer weather and change of seasons with a weekend tour of the region’s numerous botanical gardens, all within a short distance of one another.

Jennifer Boes, Director of Marketing Communications and Media Relations for Greater Williamsburg prepared this driving itinerary:

Start at Rockwood Park, just off I-95 in north Wilmington. Though not as well known as some of the area’s other gardens, the grounds surrounding the rural Gothic-style Rockwood Mansion are sublime. Explore the 72 acres of parkland including a six-acre formal garden. Unique features include a monkey puzzle tree (an unusual-looking evergreen native to Chile); a ha-ha (a sunken wall used to keep livestock away); and a stone from the Giant’s Causeway, a distinctive hexagonal rock formation along Ireland’s coast. An apothecary garden, filled with medicinal plants, was added in fall 2019.

Hagley Museum & Library’s gardens are as much about function as they are about form.  It has two very different restored gardens that date back to the 1800s: one that fed the du Pont family and another that fed company workers. A pollinator garden, new in 2020, attracts a variety of butterflies and bees.

Nemours Estate’s French-style gardens, inspired by Versailles, are among the finest and largest of their kind in the U.S. There’s a formal boxwood garden and a maze dominated by a sculpture gilded in 23-karat gold leaf. The Baroque-style Russian gate was acquired from a palace built by Catherine the Great. The English gate was once used at Wimbledon Manor. In addition to the formal gardens, there are family-friendly woodland walking trails to explore.

The Sunken Garden at the Nemours Estate, Wilmington, DE © Laurie Millman/

Winterthur Museum & Gardens features 1,000 acres of rolling hills, streams, meadows and forests. A favorite of the young and young at heart is the fairytale-like Enchanted Woods with its Faerie Cottage and Tulip treehouse. From April into May, the Azalea Woods, with thousands of Kurume azaleas and wildflowers that weave through the forest, is a must see.

Winterthur Enchanted Woods – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Wilmington, DE © Laurie Millman/

The nationally renowned Longwood Gardens is home to 11,000 varieties of plants spread across 1,100 acres of meadows, woodlands, and elaborate horticultural displays. In the four-acre conservatory, don’t miss the Wood’s Cycad. Called Longwood’s “King of the Conservatory,” this palm tree-like plant is extinct in nature and one of the rarest plants in the world.

Dancing Fountains at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA © Laurie Millman/

The final stop on the garden tour is Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware. Opened for general admission to the public in 2013, it is home to more than 1,000 native plants, many of which are threatened by extinction. On the gently rolling hills of the Delaware Piedmont, part of the Appalachian Mountain system, it consists of 630 acres of historic pastures, fields, ponds, native forests, a woodland wildflower garden, and formal landscapes. One notable feature is the trillium garden, containing every trillium species native to the eastern U.S.

The Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau is an excellent source of information to preplan your visit to the Wilmington-Brandywine region: 800-489-6664,


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Historical Society’s ‘Notorious RBG’ Pays Homage to New York’s Own Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” pays homage to the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

No exhibit that looks back into the past has been more timely and relevant than “Notorious RBG” which recently opened at the New-York Historical Society – a homage to the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, lawyer, wife, mother and woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who at age 80, became an internet phenomenon and cultural icon. It is so important to be reminded – through her words, documents, historical artifacts, archival photographs, contemporary art and interactives – of what society was like, what it took to change, and what is at risk today. The SCOTUS with the mostus challenged us to continue her work for a just, equal and compassionate society.

The traveling exhibit, which was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles and based largely on Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik’s book, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” (which was the source for a documentary),  opened to the public just the day before marches in Washington DC and around the nation in support of women’s reproductive rights. It was also mere days before the start of the Supreme Court’s new term, with a 6-3 conservative majority, including the justice who took her seat, Amy Coney Barrett, gunning to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “Notorious RBG” is on display only through January 23, 2022.

“It is different to be here, knowing she’s not with us,” author Irin Carmon reflected at the press preview of the exhibit. “She intended to visit Skirball but cancelled because of her cancer treatment. When the exhibit came to Philadelphia, she agreed to accept an award and see it more than a year after opened. It was an extraordinary experience of giving her a tour of her life.”

New-York Historical Society Presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

 “We walked her through to an imagined re-creation of her childhood living room. She stopped, as if completely alone, stopped in front of a portrait of her mother – who died just before her high school graduation. Opera was playing on an old fashioned radio. We all fell silent as she gazed. I thought of what she said when she accepted the nomination to the Supreme Court in 1993, standing with President Clinton. I was thinking what her mother would have thought.”

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg toured the “Notorious RBG” exhibit in Philadelphia with author Irin Carmon, she stopped in front of this re-creation of her childhood Brooklyn home to reflect on the portrait of her mother © Karen Rubin/

What RBG said on that day was, “It is to my mother, Celia Amster Bader, the bravest and strongest person I have known, who was taken from me much too soon. I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”

Justice Ginsburg said she would have come to the NYHS’ exhibit, which was supposed to open in 2020, but the exhibit was delayed because of COVID. She died September 18, 2020.

“It falls on all of us who share her values, what she stood for, to carry on her legacy,” Carmon said.

The exhibit traces her life from modest beginnings in Brooklyn, losing an older sister when she was two, her mother sick with cancer from when she was 13 and dying just before her high school graduation.

But you appreciate how Brooklyn was formative to the person she became – the immigrant community of Eastern Europeans, Irish and Italians. Her Jewish heritage inbued in her a commitment to seek justice and compassion, to question, and it triggered her feminism when, in Jewish tradition, she was not counted in the minyan (the quorum of 10 males required) at her own mother’s funeral because she was female.

RBG became “notorious” because of her firey dissent in Shelby v Holder in 2013, when the majority overturned the preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act, unleashing a score of voter discrimination laws in states that otherwise would have been curtailed. She charged that overturning the Voting Rights Act would invite violations of the 15th amendment. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts saying it wasn’t needed anymore because (after Obama’s election to the presidency) “things changed.”

In her dissent, RBG said that overturning the provision was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” 

We enter the exhibit at the pinnacle – one of her Supreme Court robes and jabots on display, an official portrait of her in her office as only the second woman to have served on the Supreme Court, a PBS News Hour video of her as “Notorious RBG”, and as you wind through, you understand the context, the ecosystem, that forged her character and set her on her path.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the modest girl from Brooklyn, was tickled by becoming an internet sensation, the “Notorious RBG” at age 80, and took the association with the Notorious B.I.G. with humor, saying, “We have something in common – we’re both from Brooklyn.” © Karen Rubin/

She took the “Notorious RBG” with humor – in a video of a PBS News Hour appearance, she said, “Notorious B.I.G. and I have something in common – we are both from Brooklyn.”

Very quickly, we are pushed back in time to her childhood in Flatbush Brooklyn, her time at Cornell University where she met Martin Ginsburg, and their decision to pursue law – because she thought lawyers the vanguard of societal change and because Harvard Law School had begun to accept women, albeit precious few.

“Both wanted to marry and keep on working together…Harvard Business School did not accept women. So they settled on law.”

From the beginning, “Their marriage defied gender expectations of the period and embodied her belief that men, women, and families are better when both partners share their lives and goals on equal footing. Marty was a passionate supporter of his life partners’ legal career and shared in child rearing and household responsibilities long before men were expected to do so.”

When Marty got sick with testicular cancer, she took his notes and transcribed his papers so he could stay in the program. And she left Harvard Law to go to Columbia when Marty got a job in New York (she made the Law Review at both.)

When she graduated, no law firm would hire her – “I was Jewish, a mother and a woman” so three strikes against her. She began teaching at Rutgers.

She signed up as a volunteer lawyer at the New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which was being overwhelmed by letters from women. “None of their problems were new. What was new was that anyone thought it was worth complaining about.”

“It was clear to RBG that fighting discrimination one strongly worded letter at a time was like catching the ocean in a thimble. There would always be another sexist law or regulation to take down. Women’s rights advocates needed to think bigger. What the country needed was a broader recognition of gender equality.”

New-York Historical Society presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

There is a very illuminating list of what women couldn’t do in the 1930s and 1940s – a sort of marker – which women today take for granted:

Practice law in most states or become a judge

Serve on a jury in most states

Get paid the same amount as men for doing the same work

Answer want ads for jobs labeled “men only”

Open a bank account or get a credit card without a husband’s or male relative’s permission (I would add: get a mortgage or a business loan without a man to co-sign)

In some states, own property without having a husband in control as “head and master”

Attend most Ivy League universities

Play school sports on an equal basis with boys

Attend a military academy

Get pregnant without the threat of losing her job

Wear pants on the US Senate floor

Serve in combat in the military

Much of her argument for gender equality was derived from the 14th Amendment – passed after the Civil War’s emancipation of slaves: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Roe v. Wade was decided based on the “right to privacy” implied by “due process” rather than “equal protection”.)

Marty, a prominent tax attorney, brought her the breakthrough case, Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Charles Mortiz was a businessman who was caring for his 89-year old mother, but the IRS denied him the tax deduction for expenses for her care that was allowed women, widowers or husbands of incapacitated women. But Moritz had never married. “The idea that a man might be a caregiver had apparently never crossed the government’s mind,” Ginsburg wrote.

The Ginsburgs realized that the government was senselessly denying a benefit to someone purely on the basis of sex. “If the court said that was wrong, the precedent would open the door to a broader recognition of gender equality.”

“The line the law drew rested on a stereotype: Women are caregivers, so a daughter would take care of her aging mother but men are out in the world, earning a living, so they don’t take personal care of aging parents. That law was blind to the life Charles E. Moritz lived. We took his case from the tax court to the Tenth Circuit. Marty argued the tax part of it and I argued the equal protection part,” RBG wrote.

And when one of her cases brought her up against her former Harvard Dean Erwin Griswold, who had become Solicitor General of the US, he had counsel prepare an appendix of all the laws that would have to be changed if Ginsburg were successful in her argument about gender discrimination in the law. In other words, you change this law, you have to change all the others. Ruth saw it as a handy roadmap.

Between 1971 and 1981, RBG litigated cases that would set the stage for gender equality (or rather, “neutrality”): widower, pregnancy, forced sterilization of black women; jury, and even the right to buy beer at age 18.

It is important to note in these times as a woman’s reproductive freedom is in question, that the government that can ban abortion – and deny a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body – is also a government that can force sterilization, or require an abortion. This is exactly what the government did to Captain Susan Struck in 1970; the case that RBG took up, Struck v. Secretary of Defense, resulted in the USAF changing its policy of automatically discharging pregnant women who refused to get an abortion, and led to Congress passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

“RBG Tattoo II” by Ari Richter, fashioned of pigmented human skin on glass, is painted based on a photo of Justice Ginsburg taken as she officiated at the artist’s wedding to “Notorious RBG” author Irin Carmon. It is one of the personal items on view at New-York Historical Society’s exhibit “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

RBG spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU to tackle discrimination in education and training programs, prisons and the military, advocate for reproductive freedom and hold accountable institutions that discriminated against pregnant women.

You can listen in on decisions and see original documents and artifacts – for example, Stephen Wisenfeld’s letter to the editor complaining of the discriminatory rule of Social Security that prevented him from getting survivor’s benefits after his wife, the “breadwinner” of his family, died in childbirth; the personal letter from RBG to Stephen Wisenfeld in 1977 about going to DisneyWorld, which is so revealing about her as a person; photos of RBG with Steven’s son Jason Wiesenfeld when she officiated at Jason’s wedding in 1998, and another with Stephen Wiesenfeld and Elaine Harris Wiesenfeld at their 2014 wedding that RBG officiated.

“Wiesenfeld is part of an evolution toward a policy of neutrality – a policy that will accommodate traditional patterns, but at the same time, one that requires removal of artificial constraints so that men and women willing to explore their full potential as humans may create new traditions by their actions.” RBG wrote (she won an 8-0 decision at the Supreme Court).

The 2016 anti-abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016, struck down a Texas law that required such stringent standards on abortion clinics that they would have had to be shut down. The court ruled 5-3 that this imposed an “undue burden.”

RBG joined Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion but added, “I fully subscribed to everything Breyer said, but it was long and I wanted something pithy…. I wrote to say, ‘Don’t try this anymore.’”

New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” features 3-D re-creations of key places in RBG’s life including her desk in her Supreme Court chambers © Karen Rubin/

But we know that they have not stopped trying to chip away at the “undue burden” standard. Now Texas has come up with most brazen assault on women’s rights, without Ginsburg on the bench to challenge, instead, replaced by an ultra-conservative, anti-abortion justice Amy Coney Barrett. In a dire sign of what is to come, the court allowed the Texas law to go into effect – creating a new class of vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce a blatantly unconstitutional “burden” on women who seek an abortion after six-weeks.

RBG’s last dissent was in 2020, in the “Little Sisters of the Poor v Pennsylvania,” in which the majority, 7-2 allowed religious objectors to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory requirement to provide health plans that include contraceptive coverage.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote.

New-York Historical Society Presents “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

On her deathbed, Justice Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could care less, and even though the 2020 presidential election had already gotten underway (and he had delayed an Obama nomination more than a year, to give Trump his appointee, Neil Gorsuch in place of Merrick Garland), pushed through his candidate, Amy Coney Barrett to complete a 6-3 radically conservative majority on the court.

And so, people are marching, rallying and protesting again with urgency to protect the rights that were thought to have been won, but now may be overturned. Many carry a sign that reads, “Ruth sent me.”

“Ruth Sent Me” sign at the New York City Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom, October 2, 2021 © Karen Rubin/

There are such personal items, including a reproduction of the letter her husband Marty wrote just before he died, in 2010, “My dearest Ruth- You are the only person I have loved in my life…what a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world!!”

Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life—from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities—to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter, and the costume she wore for her cameo as the Duchess in Washington National Opera’s production of “Daughter of the Regiment.”

The costume Justice Ginsburg wore for her cameo as the Duchess in Washington National Opera’s production of “Daughter of the Regiment” is on view in New-York Historical Society’s “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”   © Karen Rubin/

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation – and only seen here – are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalization ceremony of 200 new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders. (She sent a note,  “I had shingles, not yet diagnosed, on April 10, but would not have missed the oath-taking ceremony. Looking out at the 201 faces of the new citizens, I could hardly hold back the tears. The diversity represented among the new citizens, proudly pledging allegiance, is what the USA means to me. With appreciation, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

A city mourns one of its own: an overview of the memorials that appeared throughout New York City after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, September 18, 2020, is a special feature of New-York Historical Society’s presentation of the traveling exhibition “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,”  on view through January 23, 2022 © Karen Rubin/

There is also a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing, “Rest in Power, A City Mourns Its Own.”

The various RBG iconography on display is fun and fascinating, like the “real life action figure” (you can buy one in the gift shop).

The strangest – and one of the most personal – is the “RBG Tattoo II” by Ari Richter, fashioned of pigmented human skin on glass, painted with a photo of RBG taken as she officiated at the artist’s wedding to “Notorious RBG” author Irin Carmon.

“Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,  co-author Irin Carmon poses with “RBG Tattoo II” painted  by her husband, Ari Richter, based on a photo of RBG taken as she officiated at the their wedding © Karen Rubin/

When Irin Carmon asked, “And when the time comes, what would you like to be remembered for?” RBG replied, “Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”

As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

Supreme Court Justice and trailblazer Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a cultural icon, warranting an action hero figure (on sale at New-York Historical Society’s gift shop) © Karen Rubin/

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.

The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, Follow the museum on social media at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube and Tumblr.


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Driveable Getaways: Great Time to Time-Travel in Sandwich, Cape Cod’s First Village

The Dexter Grist Mill in historic Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

One of my favorite places for a driveable getaway is Sandwich, Cape Cod’s first village, settled in 1637. Sandwich is an enchanting jewel where history, exquisite architecture, fascinating attractions abound in a compact, walkable area, a short distance from the delightful Sandy Neck beach as well as the Cape Cod Canal biking trail. It is quintessential New England, an idyllic place to visit, to stay, to make your hub for exploring Cape Cod.

All through Sandwich, you see homes that bear the names of the ship captains who commanded the packet ships and clippers that made this area a mercantile center.

Many of these quaint historic houses and buildings (including a church) have been turned into charming bed-and-breakfast inns, but if you want to extend your time travel back to when the Patriots were debating revolution, a wonderful choice is the Dan’l Webster Inn and Spa, at the heart of the village. It is also is the most substantial in size, with 48 rooms, amenities and services that include a full-service Beach Plum Spa, offering the best of past and present.

The present inn sits on property that was once a parsonage, built in 1692 by Rev. Roland Cotton; in the 1750s, it was converted to the Fessenden Tavern, one of the first and most famous of New England’s taverns and a Patriot headquarters during the American Revolution (the Newcomb Tavern, just across the pond, served as Tory headquarters). In the late 1800s, the inn, then known as the Central House, hosted famous visitors including President Grover Cleveland and poet Henry David Thoreau.

In 1980, the Dan’l Webster was acquired by the Catania family’s hospitality company which operates the popular Hearth n’ Kettle Restaurants, as well as the John Carver Inn in Plymouth and the Cape Codder Resort, in Hyannis. Since acquiring the Dan’l Webster, they have restored it with exquisite taste and respect for its heritage – there are antique furnishings and Sandwich glass.

The Conservatory at the Dan’l Webster Inn, Sandwich, MA © Karen Rubin/

The Catania family also acquired the historic house next door. A marker outside the house tells the story: Nancy Fessenden married Capt. Ezra Nye in 1826 and moved into the house following their wedding. She was the daughter of the innkeeper (now the Dan’l Webster Inn). Nye was a famous captain who broke the speed record by sailing his clipper ship from Liverpool in 20 days, in 1829. Restored by the Dan’l Webster Inn in 1982, the house now offers accommodates four luxury suites, each named after prominent people associated with the inn, dating back to 1692.

Historic Fessenden house, now part of the Dan’l Webster Inn, Sandwich, MA © Karen Rubin/

The Dan’l Webster has become an award-winning hotel, spa and dining destination. Recognized as a Distinguished Restaurant of North America (placing it in the top 1% of restaurants in the country) it offers a choice of the casual Tavern at the Inn, the cozy Music Room or the more formal (and romantic) ambiance in a lovely glass enclosed Conservatory.

The Tavern at the Inn is an authentic replica of the two-centuries-old tap room where Daniel Webster made regular visits and which had been a meeting place for local Patriots during the Revolution.

This is an especially good time to visit. The inn is offering a special package, Mosey & Museum Package, that captures the real essence of small-town Cape Cod (through October 3). It includes admission to the Sandwich Glass Museum to appreciate the art of glass making and Sandwich’s contribution to the industrial craft, and to Heritage Museum and Gardens to celebrate their Pollinator Festival. (Check the website for more packages.)

Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa 149 Main Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 800-444-3566,[email protected],

So Much to Do in Sandwich

Heritage Museum & Gardens, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/

In a village of many substantial attractions and places of interest, what truly stands out is the Heritage Museum & Gardens – a destination attraction. It hits on a spectrum of cylinders – 100 acres of magnificent grounds and trails on the banks of the Shawme Pond; the vast, stunning and notable gardens that feature internationally important collections of rhododendrons, including those created by Charles Dexter, collections of hydrangeas, over 1,000 varieties of daylilies, hostas, herb, heather gardens, and more than a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers along beautiful and easily walked paths.

The JK Lilly III collection of vintage cars and folk art at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich © Karen Rubin/

Also, the JK Lilly III collection of vintage cars and folk art, and  you can take a ride on a delightful working vintage carousel. There is also – imagine this – Hidden Hollow, an enchanting family-friendly outdoor adventure center where you can get a “squirrel’s perspective” of the forest.  You should allocate the better part of a day to visit. (Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 508.888.3300,, open daily through Mid-October.)

See the forest from a squirrel’s eye view at Hidden Hollow at Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, Cape Cod © Karen Rubin/

What built Sandwich, though (and likely the reason that so many of its magnificent buildings reflect the prosperity of the early-1800s) was that in 1825, Deming Jarves built a glass factory to manufacture glass with a revolutionary process that made it affordable for the masses (Sandwich glass is still a thing). The factory grew rapidly to be one of the largest producers in the country with over 500 workers producing over five million pieces of glass annually by the 1850s. By the 1880s, labor strikes, an economic depression, and new factories being built further closer to natural gas fuel sources forced the factory to close.

Today, you can visit the Sandwich Glass Museum which displays original pieces created during the 1800’s and provides demonstrations of glass blowing techniques. The museum’s theater shows a great documentary of the history of Sandwich. Throughout the village there are several glass blowers and artists with open studios to visit, creating a dynamic center for contemporary glass art (Sandwich Glass Museum,120 Main St., 508-833-1540,

Historic Dexter Grist Mill, Sandwich, Cape Cod’s first village © Karen Rubin/

A short walk from the Dan’l Webster Inn is the Dexter Grist Mill, a working grist mill since 1654 where you can still buy ground cornmeal, or draw fresh water from the well (as many locals do for their personal supply).

The Hoxie House, built in 1675, was lived in until the 1970s but was never modernized with electricity or plumbing. This saltbox is named after a whaling captain who owned the house in the mid-1800s. it is now a wonderful little museum house showing what family life was like in the 1600s.

Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum, is the 18th-century home of one of the first 50 men who settled in Sandwich.

Also, the Wing Fort House, built in 1641, the oldest house in New England continuously owned and occupied by one family (63 Spring Hill Rd., 508-833-1540).

A short distance away, you can visit the Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen (6 Discovery Hill Road off Route 6A), which celebrates author and naturalist Thornton W. Burgess, who wrote the Peter Cottontail stories. There are nature programs, nature trails, a working 1903 Jam Kitchen, jam-making classes (508-888-6870, 

Scene biking along the Cape Cod Canal © Karen Rubin/

One of my favorite things about Sandwich is the proximity to the Cape Cod Canal which offers a 6.2 mile-long paved path (on each side) for biking, roller blading or just walking (the banks of the canal are also popular for fishing). Along the trail, you can visit the Aptucxet Trading Post, built by the Pilgrims in 1627 to facilitate trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam and the Narrangansett Indians.

The Cape Cod Canal is a marvel (there is a visitor center on the mainland side that tells the history). The canal was constructed in 1914 – up until then, there were a tragic number of ships that were wrecked trying to sail around the peninsula. But it is astonishing to learn that interest in building the canal dated back to the earliest settlers: in 1623, Pilgrims scouted the area as the place best suited for a canal. In 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered a formal proposal to build a canal, but no action was taken. In 1776, George Washington, concerned about its military implications, studied the site. But it took until 1909 for construction to start. (60 Ed Moffitt Dr., 508-833-9676,

Cape Cod also has the most marvelous network of dedicated bike trails.

Sandwich offers easy access to other marvelous places to visit on Cape Cod, like Falmouth, Wood’s Hole, Hyannis but you should spend at least a day on the other side of the Sagamore Bridge, in Plymouth, to visit a score of historic attractions associated with the Pilgrims, including the Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation, one of the best living history museums anywhere.

For more information, contact Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, 508-681-0918, [email protected],


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