Skip To Content
Get Our Newsletter
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

To Open on Shabbat or Not? That Is the Question

The National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia doesn’t even opened its doors until November 26, but already it’s making history of its own. The five-story museum has struggled with the decision of whether or not to open on Saturdays (Shabbat), when Jewish law forbids work and commercial dealings. The alternative: Allow thousands of potential museum-goers to visit…and um, pay the admission price. The museum’s president and chief executive officer, Michael Rosenzweig, has said that there was “not a simple answer.”

Now we have a verdict. The museum will be open on Shabbat, though tickets for Saturdays will not be sold on its premises; instead, they can be purchased online, in advance or outside the museum. While the gift shop will also be open, the store will not handle cash on Saturdays and credit card transactions will be processed after sundown.

Over the summer, a committee was created to review the dilemma. The members consulted with rabbis and reviewed the policies of other similar institutions. The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, for example, is closed on Saturdays but the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles are open on Shabbat, as are their gift shops.

“We’re a Jewish institution, but not a religious institution,” Rosenzweig recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re reaching out to the Jewish community and to the non-Jewish community, to inspire in all Americans a greater appreciation for the remarkable accomplishments of American Jews, for both themselves and the nation.” He added, “It’s kind of a compromise.” Yes, kind of.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free under an Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives Creative Commons license as long as you follow our republishing guidelines, which require that you credit Foward and retain our pixel. See our full guidelines for more information.

To republish, copy the HTML, which includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline, and credit to Foward. Have questions? Please email us at help@forward.com.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.