Story, photos by Tiffany DuBois
The National Museum of American Jewish History debuted a special exhibit in mid-March called “1917: How One Year Changed the World”. The exhibition looks back 100 years at how three major events brought about political and social change that reshaped the role that the United States would play in the world. These events were America’s entry into World War 1, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. The exhibition tells the story of the year 1917 from the perspective of American Jews and what trials and tribulations they had to endure during this time in history.
The exhibit itself is very moving and one can not help but to imagine what American Jews, and Jews worldwide had to go through during this time. The exhibit was spaced and laid out perfectly and encompasses about 150 artifacts. Every piece of the exhibit was donated either by museums or through private collections. One of the highlights was seeing the actual Balfour Declaration, exhibited for the first time ever, and graciously donated by a private collector.
For those unaware of what is the Balfour Declaration, it is a letter from the Great Britian’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on November 9th, 1917. The “Balfour Declaration” was later incorporated into both the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, and the Mandate for Palestine.
The exhibit runs through July 16th. The museum is located on historic Independence Mall at the corner of 5th and Market streets. Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5:30pm and closed most Mondays.