New York, Nu York: Come See the First Jewish Americans

One of my favorite museums in New York City is the New-York Historical Society. Over the years I have seen many intriguing exhibits here. A few summers ago I spent a week here as a participant in a teacher seminar, and one of the perks was we got to visit the archival holdings of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History which are housed in a basement of the museum. (Among the items we oohed and aahed over were General Ulysses S. Grant's Civil War field shaving kit.) A few years ago the Museum underwent a renovation, and the first floor has a particularly stylish yet quite impressive and meaningful collection of historical items.
The Historical Society is often overlooked because it is just across the street from the world-famous American Museum of Natural History, which is also much bigger (and has a parking garage). But don't overlook the Society, and I recommend an exhibition that is on now through mid-March.
"The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World" is a fascinating collection and narrative that pulls together Colonial and Early Republic American history along with Jewish history. My husband and I greatly enjoyed the show, and it has a wonderful array of books, paintings and artwork, ritual items and letters and much more. Among the artifacts I liked especially were a calendar for the year 554-41; an Omer book printed during the late 1700s; A prayer book title "The Hope of Israel," a ketubah, and other books. There is a letter to a Jewish leader written and signed by Thomas Jefferson (that one gets a lot of attention, naturally).
This is not the first exhibit of Judaica that I have seen at the Society but it is particularly interesting because of its focus on New York, as well as few other major American cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia. I also appreciated seeing the many old maps included in the exhibit, because it is worthwhile to see how much the boundaries of the country have changed.
Go visit the New-York Historical Society by mid-March to see this.