Belgium Museum Will Tell Story of Red Star Line That Carried Jews to America

Chronicling the Ships that Brought Millions to Freedom

Precious Cargo: Ships carried people, petroleum and grain.
John S. Johnston/Library of Congress
Precious Cargo: Ships carried people, petroleum and grain.

By Molly Arost Staub

Published June 04, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The main exhibit in the museum simulates the immigration experience. Museumgoers will first visit a fake Warsaw travel agency, then proceed to the interior of a train carriage which takes them to the simulated city of Antwerp. Steerage passengers go through a screening process and then board a mock ship that takes them to Ellis Island or an immigrant intake center in Philadelphia.

The Red Star Line museum also pays homage to the Jews who stayed in Antwerp rather than continue on to the United States, either because they were deemed unfit to travel or because they saw business opportunities in the city. Today, Antwerp’s Jewish population is around 15,000; many have family ties to the diamond business.

The Red Star Line Museum is but the latest in a growing number of immigration museums in Europe. London’s Museum of Immigration and Diversity chronicles the waves of Huguenots, Irish, Eastern European Jews and Bangladeshis who came to England. The BallinStadt Emigration Museum in Hamburg, Germany is named for Albert Ballin, the Jewish owner of the Happag shipping company that transported millions of Europeans to the United States. There are also immigration museums in Bremerhaven, Germany; Cobh, Ireland, and Cherbourgh, France.

“There’s been a growing interest in Europe in immigration, because we are confronted by lots of immigration,” said Luc Verheyen, the Red Star Line Museum’s project coordinator in Antwerp. With the new institution, he said, “we tried to give immigration new meaning for a wider public, an example of a global phenomenon.”

Molly Arost Staub is a freelance writer and the former editor of Palm Beach Jewish World.

This article was updated on June 12 to clarify the identity of the founders of the Red Star Line and to correct the contents of the timeline and historical exhibition.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.