The Newseum closed on Dec. 31. Here’s some Jewish history you may have missed.

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Updated: 1/3/2020 at 11:45 a.m.

After 11 years in Washington, the beloved Newseum closed its doors for the last time Dec. 31. Its many exhibits spanning six floors and championing journalism and the freedoms of the First Amendment are no longer open to the public, due to unsustainable operating costs, according to its website.


As the clock wound down on the Newseum’s closing, people expressed their outpouring love and support for the museum on social media, and waited through long lines to get one last visit in.

During its time here, the Newseum has displayed some interesting pieces of Jewish history.

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Jewish history in newspapers

The Newseum had an exhibit of original, preserved newspapers dating back to the 1400s. Visitors could roll out the glass display cases to get a look at historical news. The first instance of Jewish news seen on display is from 1897: the first copy of the Jewish Daily Forward.


The first copy of the Jewish Daily Forward from 1897, on display at the Newseum. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

The Forward was founded by Abraham Cahan and “was one of New York’s leading ethnic newspapers,” said the Newseum’s description of the artifact under its glass case. The Yiddish newspaper, seen above, “encouraged the assimilation of East European Jewish immigrants.” Now, the newspaper is published weekly in English, biweekly in Yiddish and daily online in both languages.

A Nazi propaganda newspaper in 1935 Germany announces Jewish rights to be stripped. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

A display of a Nazi Party propaganda newspaper from 1935 showed the announcement of the Nuremberg Laws, which revoked Jewish rights in Germany. Jews were stripped of citizenship and prohibited from intermarrying with non-Jews.

The Daily Record on display at the Newseum. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

In November 1938, German Nazis ravaged Jewish homes, shops and synagogues in the night known as Kristallnacht. The Newseum displayed this 1938 copy of the Daily Record which reports on the attacks and calls them an act of “mob rule.”

“Nazi Mass Murders Rouse World Protest.” This is the headline from Detroit’s Jewish News that reported on the murders of the Holocaust. The Newseum noted, underneath this display, that “In an era when anti-Semitism was common, many newspapers underplayed the Nazis’ mass murder of the Jews.”

The Des Moines Register on display. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

This 1948 newspaper announces the United States’ recognition of Israel, the newly created Jewish state. The Des Moines Register reported that “President Harry S. Truman’s recognition of the Jewish State ‘placed the great weight of American prestige’ behind Israel’s claims to a Jewish homeland,” the Newseum noted.

Other Jewish-related events and people were also highlighted in the exhibit.

Though perhaps not a proud moment in Jewish history, the conviction and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was a moment of national importance. The Rosenbergs were convicted of providing classified information about the atomic bomb to Russia, the Newseum noted, during the Cold War. A from the Daily News detailed their deaths.

The Six Day War in 1967 brings these headlines from The News American: “Mideast War Breaks Out: Report Heavy Casualties” and “Israel Battles 5 Arab Nations.”

Gloria Steinem’s advocacy for women’s equality is shows in a 1971 copy of Newsweek.

In 1972, the exhibit shows, Arab terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Summer Olympics. According to The Baltimore Sun issue displayed, U.S. gold medalist Mark Spitz left the Olympics “out of fears for his safety.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s successes with Facebook are highlighted in a 2007 issue of Newsweek, and a the exhibit displayed a copy of Charlie Hebdo, spurring the “Je Suis Charlie” movement from 2015 after 12 people were killed by Al-Qaida gunmen at the French satirical newspaper.

Bloomberg: Founding Partner

As a founding partner, Bloomberg LP had a special plaque to recognize its contribution to the Newseum. In addition, Bloomberg News’s 20th anniversary is upcoming in 2020. The interactive TV screen on the wall played videos documenting Bloomberg News’s founding, mission and innovation complete with interviews from Michael Bloomberg and other Bloomberg News employees.

The Bloomberg Founding Partner display at the Newseum. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

“Holocaust: The Untold Story”

The Newseum’s documentary on the Holocaust highlights a unique aspect of Hitler’s war on Europe’s Jews: the American media’s indifference. In The New York Times, the most read newspaper of the day, editors buried coverage of the treatment of Jews time and time again, according to the documentary. Instead of highlighting the atrocities of the Holocaust as front page news, the paper wrote short, unnoticeable briefs on later pages.

The Jewish press, the documentary notes, ran banner headlines on the subject, but the mainstream press ignored the story. Instead, the stories took the angle of helping the U.S. war effort — like a front page story about the New York governor donating his shoes to the war effort. It wasn’t until editors visited the concentration camps in 1942 that an editorial describing the horrors ran on the Times’s front page.

According to the documentary, the New York Times ran 1,100 stories relating to the Holocaust in six years, but only six times did those stories make the front page.

The documentary includes interviews from Holocaust survivors, historians like Deborah Lipstadt, and American journalists who were reporting at the time, like Richard Hottelet, posing the question, “Could more attention from the American press have helped prevent some of the horrors of the Holocaust?”

Freedom of Religion

The Cox First Amendment Gallery showcased the five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the first being freedom of religion. One descriptions highlight a Supreme Court case brought by Simcha Goldman, whom U.S. Air Force officials ordered to stop wearing his kippot because they “violated military uniform regulations.”

In 1986 Supreme Court ruled against Goldman, who sued for a religious exemption. But the next year Congress “passed a law allowing members of the armed forces to wear some religious apparel while in uniform,” the Newseum stated.

The Cox First Amendment Gallery, Freedom of Religion. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

In early 2020, according to its website, the Newseum will begin breaking down exhibits and moving artifacts to a support center. Its collection “will continue to circulate for outgoing loans, educational programs, public events, digital initiatives and more,” and its popular Today’s Front Pages display will continue to be available. The Pennsylvania Avenue building’s next tenant will be Johns Hopkins University.

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Twitter:@jacqbh58

 

CORRECTION: The article “The Newseum closed on Dec. 3” incorrectly identified the number of Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Eleven were murdered, two in their rooms and nine at the airport.

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