Jews for Jeans: Who’s Your Pick for Hall of Fame?

By Devra Ferst

Published July 15, 2009, issue of July 24, 2009.
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Levi Strauss, creator of blue jeans, or Steven Spielberg, director of the films “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List”? Perhaps legendary baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, or Albert Einstein? Who deserves to be in the Jewish American Hall of Fame? The National Museum of American Jewish History is about to find out.

E.T. Not Eligible: But the guy in the hat is in the running.
Getty Images
E.T. Not Eligible: But the guy in the hat is in the running.

The museum, which is slated to open in a newly constructed building in Philadelphia in November 2010, is letting the public vote on 218 figures from American Jewish life throughout history for its Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame, which will be a permanent exhibit on the museum’s first floor.

“This is a rare opportunity for the public to have input on what is going to be featured in a major museum exhibition,” said Josh Perelman, the museum’s deputy director of programming and chief curator of the museum’s core exhibition.

Voters will choose their top three picks in categories such as arts and entertainment; business and philanthropy; literature; performance; politics, law and activism; religion and thought; science and medicine, and sports. Eighteen finalists will be selected from the results, in consultation with the museum’s historians.

In addition to Jewish sports and music celebrities, the list of personalities includes rabbis such as Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement, Jewish female activists such as Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, and educator Rebecca Gratz.

Votes can be cast online at the museum’s web site until August 6 and at the current museum’s exhibit, Shaping Space, Making Meaning.

Don’t see someone you like? The site will also let visitors write in the names of their own Jewish heroes. Gene Simmons, anybody?


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