The recently opened Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow has left many Russian Jewish visitors in awe at its touching detail, depth and honesty regarding the experience of Russian Jews throughout the centuries.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, born in Belarus, said at the opening ceremony, “My mother sang to me in Russian, and at the entrance to this museum, memories of my childhood flooded through my mind, and my mother’s voice played in my heart. I came here to say thank you.” Other visitors stated that their parents, who left Russia during the 1970’s, simply could not believe that such a museum now existed in Moscow.
The complex’s state-of-the-art design features interactive galleries that bring the visitor into the world of Russian Jews at a specific period in time. The NY Times reports, “Touch the screen in one exhibit in this vast building and a visitor can appear in a mirror dressed in the garb of a 19th-century blacksmith, or a trader or a ‘representative of the intelligentsia.’ Tap a Torah in a virtual synagogue, and a cantor’s voice rings in the air. In a virtual Odessa, one can sit down in an interactive cafe to chat with long-dead writers.”
The museum does not shy away from the darker periods of time for Russian Jews– the Odessa cafe exhibit includes touch-screen tables that ask the question “If your store were destroyed by a pogrom, what would you do? A) Give up and emigrate to the West, B) Stay in my hometown and try to rebuild the store, C) Join a Jewish self-defense league and prepare for the next pogrom or, D) I am still in shock.”
Despite the many positive reactions to this new, $50-million museum (that was partially funded by President Putin), the LA Times points out that this does not put to rest problems surrounding the surge of racist nationalism in Russia. A week ago, thousands of nationalists marched throughout Moscow denouncing Jews, Masons and various other ethnic, religious and social groups, many wearing black hoods and high boots.