Virtual Yemen tour to show once-thriving Jewish community  

 

MILWAUKEE — When the Jewish Museum Milwaukee started focusing on virtual programs last year, it was a way to keep members and the public engaged during the pandemic 

With the pandemic and its impacts on society now well established, the museum has been able to utilize its online programming to bring stories and experiences to people that never would have been possible inside the four walls of its building.  

A Yeminite Jewish bride poses for a photo in the city of Yemini city of Sana’a around the year 1930. © Yihe Haybi, collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

That is certainly the case with the latest edition of the museum’s “Global Museum Passport: Virtual Home Edition,” which promises to take participants on a tour of Yemen’s once thriving Jewish community. 

Although Yemen has traditionally been seen as disconnected from overall Jewish history and the global Jewish community, the origins of the Yemenite Jewish community date to Biblical times and have remained there to this day, a description of the event states.  

The Jews of Yemen were dispersed throughout the country, located in thousands of small villages. Yet, the Jews remained connected to one another and to the larger Jewish world. 

As part of the event, attendees will get to explore Yemenite Jewish history and visit notable sites including the tomb of Rabbi Shalom Shabbazi in Taiz and the Jewish Quarter of Sana’a.  

“I have never anticipated going to Yemen, so I am fascinated by the opportunity to explore the country,” said Ellie Gettinger, the museum’s education director. “Even if I were to get a chance to visit the country, there are virtually no Jews left there now. They are capturing something that has been lost.”  

The one-hour event will take place at noon on Jan. 11 via Zoom. Tickets can be purchased via a link on the event webpage: https://jewishmuseummilwaukee.org/events/touryemen. 

The event is free to museum members and $10 for nonmembers.  

Social justice  

Another online program Gettinger is excited about is the museum’s upcoming exploration of the Jewish community’s social justice pursuits.  

“Jewish Work for Social Justice and Racial Equality: Our Responsibility to Engage” will take place at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7 via zoom. The event is free to all.  

By examining relevant texts and looking into the root causes of the problems defining our era, the goal of the event is to consider the many ways Jews can and must be involved in the ongoing struggles for justice and equity.  

Bringing to bear her own experience as an organizer, a social change agent, former president of the American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger will have a conversation about what individuals can do to help.  

The event dovetails with the museum’s “Luba Lukova: Designing Justice” exhibit that features 34 posters that explore social justice through visual puns and bold graphic images.  

“We are really excited to have someone who is as established as Ruth Messinger for this event,” Gettinger said. “We are looking to reaffirm our sense of mission and purpose, especially now since we are in that winter, post-election lull. We are hoping the event will act as a new catalyst — as a way to reenergize the community and ourselves.”