Modern education cherishes the value of “hands-on” education but Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch brings that approach to a whole new level. Deutsch created a museum in the heart of Hassidic Boro Park, Brooklyn, to induct anyone and everyone into the animal kingdom as laid out in the Hebrew Bible.
No, the rabbi is not trying to compete with the Museum of Natural History. He sees his pet project as part of a bigger mission: to offer a fun, interactive experience outside the classroom.
“I thought it was important for a child to be able to walk over and touch a real lion,” he explains. “If you touch history, history touches you.”
And he doesn’t even mind when inquisitive visitors get a little rowdy. “Sometimes kids get excited — they’ll pull an ear from one of the animals or they’ll break something and we have to put it back.”
The Torah Animal World made headlines in December 2013 when the building faced foreclosure. But the unflappable Deutsch managed to overcome the financial hurdles of New York’s cruel real estate jungle. His DIY, un-Disney-fied, borderline-morbid display certainly ranks up there with the world’s weirdest collections.
Martyna Starosta is a former digital media producer of the Forward.
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