From Irving’s piano to Steven’s camera

The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), the only museum dedicated to telling the story of American Jewish life, opened this weekend on Independence Mall.

The 100,000-square-foot museum cost $150 million to build and expects to draw 250,000 people a year.

“Independence Mall was the perfect place,” Josh Perelman, chief curator, said. “This museum is a monument to what can be achieved with freedom.”

Bureaucratic red tape led to the creation of a national Jewish museum in Philadelphia and not in New York or Washington, D.C., but local philanthropic support also played a huge role.

“The new museum could not have been built without former Philadelphian Sidney Kimmel and George Ross,” said Michael Rosenzweig, museum president and CEO. “Sidney Kimmel, the founder of Jones Apparel Group, gave $25 million when the museum was just an idea. His donation conferred credibility on the project. George Ross, a former partner at Goldman Sachs in Philadelphia, raised singlehandedly almost all of the $150 million needed for the museum.”
Friends of billionaire Kimmel said that he gave the donation because the museum told his story.

Rosenzweig, whose favorite item in the museum is composer Irving Berlin’s piano, urged everyone to visit. “This is every immigrant’s story — be they Italian, Irish or Asian.”

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