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J.M. Sorrell: Profound experiences to be had at U.S. museums

To the editor:

Sara Weinberger’s column on her trip to Berlin was interesting on many fronts. I know Sara to be a proponent of social and economic justice, and I appreciate her perspective as a Jew visiting Germany; however, I would point out that there are in fact centers and museums in the United States about the oppression and inequities of groups of people over the course of history in this country. To visit any of these museums is a profound experience.

The National Museum of the American Indian is at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. It is large and carries information about countless tribes of Native Americans with honest accounting of what white, European invaders/settlers did to them — killing, land taking, assimilation, etc. Our own Historic Deerfield created the Indian perspective, too, when historians implored the museum to offer truths about white European settlers.

The Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is constantly reinventing itself to name injustices and to address our shared and different histories.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was created in Cincinnati so we may never forget the horrors of slavery. It is known more commonly as the Freedom Center, and there are exhibits of all kinds and films to address slavery and modern day forms of oppression and bias. Jewish and Christian organizations in Cincinnati had the vision to make this happen.

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture will be completed in Washington in 2015. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington is incredible.

While Americans may seem a shopping, accumulating, shallow bunch, we are also on a journey to own the past and to learn from it. Given the severity and audacity of what the Germans did to Jews, I would expect nothing short of the memorials and laws present today. And I would not call Berlin the “safest place on earth” for Jews. There are thousands of people still alive who were active Nazis. It is good that anti-Semitism is not socially normative in Germany, but feelings still exist just as racism surfaces in many insidious ways here.

J.M. Sorrell


Legacy Comments1

What we need is a museum telling the story of the current and on-going Palestinian holocaust, which the United states currently spends billions of dollars supporting. Sara Weinberger writes frequently about what happened to her own people four generations ago. In some people's minds that may qualify her as a "proponent of social and economic justice." I would prefer to see her show some concern for the war crimes that her own people have been committing or subsidizing for the last 66 years. Until she does that, it is difficult for me to see her as a human rights advocate or even as having ever been an honest academic. You can't say "I'm concerned about human rights when my people stand to profit by receiving on-going reparations from the Germans. But I am not concerned when my people are profiting from the on-going military occupation and land confiscation of Palestine." That is not concern for human rights; that is only concern for personal enrichment.

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