For Vice President Joe Biden, delivering a keynote address at the opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History was something that “wouldn’t be possible in anywhere but Philadelphia.”
Biden, who appeared Sunday afternoon at the museum’s official dedication ceremony, had a tough act to follow after a set of well-received performances by Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler on Saturday night. Sunday's event — which marked the culmination of a long, uphill battle for the city’s newest attraction — drew a crowd of about 2,000.
After more than 30 years in crowded quarters at nearby Congregation Mikveh Israel, the five-story, Independence Mall-based museum now stands just 11 days away from its official opening to the general public.
For Biden, that date — Nov. 26 — can’t come soon enough. “I see this museum as an institution that celebrates the diasporic past and illuminates the contributions made by Jewish Americans on our shared future,” the Vice President said.
Built at a cost of $150 million, the new 100,000-square-foot building was described as “the only museum dedicated exclusively to exhibiting and interpreting the story of American Jews” by NMAJH President Michael Rosenzweig.
And at Sunday's ceremony, Biden — positioned in front of the building’s transparent facade — echoed many of those sentiments in his speech.
“Jewish Americans have made a lasting and indelible contribution to America’s identity,” he said. “This museum brings new life to many of those contributions.”
In addition to Biden, Sunday’s event featured appearances by three Penn alumni: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Each speaker praised the work of the museum’s staff, paying special tribute to the unique location that the building has between the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Looking onward from the Mall yesterday along with thousands of others was College junior Rachel Schonwetter. Schonwetter, who volunteered at the event with six fellow members of Penn Hillel’s Conservative Jewish Community, said Sunday’s ceremony marked a meaningful time in her own life.
“We’re often told that we’re part of history, but today I felt that we truly were experiencing an important milestone for the American Jewish community,” she said. “That meant a lot to me.”Comments powered by Disqus
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