Telling Story of Holocaust's Horrors Through Ultra-Orthodox Eyes

Brooklyn Museum Plans To Offer Neglected Shoah Perspective

yad vashem

By Paul Berger

Published April 09, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
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Is it permissible to show images of Jewish women with their heads shaved but without a head covering as they walk towards Nazi gas chambers?

This is the type of question faced by organizers of the first Holocaust museum to be aimed specifically at Orthodox Jews.

Elly Kleinman, the Orthodox businessman behind the project, sought the advice of a Hasidic rabbi on this question not long ago. Kleinman said that the rabbi told him: “Are you allowed to show it? You are obligated to show it.”

But Kleinman, who declined to name the rabbi, said he wanted to accommodate the cultural sensitivities of the community’s more conservative wing.

So, for groups that shun images of women, the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center will have a separate track in which the material on display will not include pictures of women.

“Our objective is to cooperate with all constituencies,” Kleinman said, adding, “We expect to resolve these issues within the community.”

It is the need to wrestle with such issues that makes the museum, which is slated to open next year in Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox Boro Park neighborhood, still a work in progress.

Organizers of the project say theirs will be the first museum in the world dedicated to the “Torah-observant experience.” This, they said, is an approach not seen in any of the Holocaust museums around the world.”

Kleinman, wearing a sharp blue shirt and a pair of dark, horn-rimmed glasses, is seated behind his desk at the Brooklyn headquarters of his home health care company, Americare Certified Special Services.

He has a trim white beard and wears a black yarmulke. On the office wall behind him are photographs of two prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis: Yaakov Perlow, who is known as the Novominsker rebbe, and David Twersky, the Skverer rebbe. Next to them are photographs of Kleinman meeting with presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.


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