About a month and a half ago Meg and I were in Washington, DC to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference (AIPAC is the American lobby on behalf of Israel). Knowing that we were going to be in the capital I tried to get tickets to the new African-American Smithsonian Museum. Much to my disappointment all available tickets were sold.
We arrived in Washington early so I suggested to Meg we take a walk by the new museum, which we did. I approached a museum official hoping against hope that perhaps a few tickets were still available. He assured me that there were none. An African-American family standing by us overheard the conversion. The mother of the family turned and said, “We have two extra tickets; you’re welcome to take them.” At that moment I had two simultaneous thoughts: (1) it was totally beshert and (2) be sure to profusely thank the family for their generosity.
The new museum, too long in coming, is a wonderful achievement. It houses the rich history, the wonderful cultural, scientific and artistic accomplishments, and the varied ethnic expressions of the African-American community.
On the day we visited the museum, it was packed and the overwhelming number of the visitors were African-American. As much as I enjoyed seeing the superb exhibits, what proved even more exciting was to see the attendees’ reactions. Parents sharing enthusiastically something they personally experienced from the past: a famous singer, an historic event or person. “I was here when Martin spoke.” “I remember hearing her sing that song.” “I was in Montgomery for the march.” Grandparents and parents were connecting to children and grandchildren.
As Jews, we are well acquainted with our past and the importance it has in shaping our present and future. Each year during our Passover, we retell our ancient story thus ensuring our identity as Jews.
Embodied in this new museum are a people’s past and a reason to be proud. It made me proud that a much needed emblem, so long overdue, has been added to our nation’s capital.