RABBI NISSEN BRENENSON (Director of Education, Jewish Children’s Museum, Brooklyn, NY): As you approach the museum, the first thing you see is a giant photo mosaic, and as you get closer you realize that it’s made up of thousands and thousands of smaller photographs of children of all ages, of all races. Then that contains a special message, and that is that we’re really one.
The gallery on the six days of Creation and the Shabbat, the Sabbath, contains a Shabbat table where you’re actually walking on the table. There are Shabbat candlesticks, a giant crawl-through challah tunnel. Inside the tunnel, you can learn about the ingredients, the significance, of the special challah bread.
Hanukkah is also a favorite. We have an olive oil pressing station where children can actually squeeze their own olive oil. They like to do that, and the olive oil represents the miracle of the oil that happened at the time of the Hanukkah story.
I think we have the world’s only touch-screen Seder plate, and by pressing the screen and selecting the various symbolic items on the Seder plate, the children can watch short clips of what these symbols represent and the story of Passover.
The holiday of trees is called Tu B’Shvat, and here at the museum we have our own special talking Tu B’Shvat tree:
Talking Tree: Tu B’Shvat is my birthday.
RABBI BRENENSON: He’s sort of a storyteller and explains how man is compared to a tree in many ways. We have our roots, and that’s our faith, and we also have our fruits, and those are the good deeds that we perform.
The journey continues into our kosher supermarket, where children can scan products. Instead of coming up with prices, there are trivia questions about the kosher diet as well as a full-scale kosher kitchen.
The last gallery on that floor focuses on values that are rooted in Jewish tradition but have also become universal, such as kindness—kindness to others, kindness to animals, respecting the environment, charity.