Need to get out of the house? Is the weather too hot, cold, or wet for outdoor activities? Feeling bad about that two-hour Netflix binge you authorized just to so you could get the laundry done? Or maybe you are feeling the need for a dose of Jewish culture.
New York has a wealth of Jewish-themed museums located all over the NYC area and Brooklyn and all of them have tours and programs geared specifically for families. You can choose according to interest area, by program, or even by neighborhood. No matter where you go and how you choose, we can guarantee that everyone will learn at least a little something and you will feel like a stellar parent for exposing your progeny to something both Jewish and educational. It’s a total win-win.
The Jewish Museum
11 5th Ave @ 92nd St
NY, NY 10128
Sun, Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat: 11 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Thurs: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays
Located in an Edith Wharton-esque mansion on Fifth Avenue, The Jewish Museum is home to over 30,000 works of art and covers over 4,000 years of Jewish history. No big deal, right?
Why You Should Bring the Kids: The Jewish Museum has a host of programs geared toward families, including a permanent children’s exhibit, weekend programs, weekday workshops, and concerts. They also print family guides for many of the exhibits to help keep the kids interested while you soak up a bit of culture. The museum’s permanent exhibit is also worth a visit. Have the kids point out all of the things they recognize—menorahs, Shabbat candlesticks, and tzedakah boxes. They’ll feel like smart cookies, and it might even give you a chance to look at a few things yourself. Check out the museum’s family page for their current schedule of family programs.
1. The museum has an incredible gift shop known for its Judaica as well as other fun finds. It is best, however, for the stroller set or for slightly older kids.
2. Lower East Side favorite Russ & Daughters now has a (certified kosher!) restaurant at the museum. It isn’t cheap, but we guarantee it will be some of the best smoked fish you’ve ever had.
3. Admission is free on Saturdays.
Museum at Eldridge Street
12 Eldridge St
NY, NY 10002
Sun – Thurs: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fri: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Closed on Saturdays and major national & Jewish holidays
The Eldridge Street Synagogue was founded in 1887 and is now home to a beautifully restored museum that gives visitors a window into the immigrant experience on the Lower East Side and beyond using hands-on and digital displays as well as the historic building itself.
Why You Should Bring the Kids: The museum’s innovative family programs include hands-on activities, walking tours, and crafts projects as well as seasonal, holiday-themed events and concerts. Best for ages 4 – 11. Check the museum’s family page for more information.
1. Build in a visit (or two) to one of the Lower East Side’s famous food purveyors such as Economy Candy, Russ & Daughter’s, or Katz’s Delicatessen for fortification either before or after your tour.
2. The museum is free on Mondays for groups of up to six people.
Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
Sun – Tues, Thurs: 10 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Wed: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (*Museum closes at 5 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time)
Closed on Saturdays
Located all the way downtown in Battery Park, the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s mission is to educate visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust.
Why You Should Bring the Kids: Although the museum covers some heavy stuff, they also run several programs specifically geared toward kids and families, including PJ Library story times, theatrical performances, and concerts. All of the family events also include mini-tours that are appropriate for all ages. Visit their family events page for more information.
Bonus Points: Museum visitors get a stellar view of the Statue of Liberty and you can even pick up some Lady-Liberty-themed swag (foam crown, anyone?) without actually getting on a boat and taking the tour.
Jewish Children’s Museum
792 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11312
Sun: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sun – Thurs: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Fridays & Saturdays
The Jewish Children’s Museum is the largest Jewish-themed children’s museum in the US. Located in Brooklyn, it is home to interactive exhibits about Jewish history, holidays, Israel, and contemporary Jewish life.
Why You Should Bring the Kids: In addition to the fact that it is a children’s museum, they also host special exhibits and activities throughout the year where visitors can learn how honey is made, press their own olive oil, bake matzah, and more.
Bonus Points: Unless you live in Brooklyn, you are going to want to make this a day trip. While in the borough, you can pick from the many fabulous things Brooklyn has to offer from Coney Island to the botanical gardens, to the general urban, hipster fabulousness of many Brooklyn neighborhoods and food establishments.
Tenement Museum (Ages 8+)
103 Orchard St
NY, NY 10002
Fri – Wed: 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Thurs: 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Why You Should Bring the Kids: Choose from a selection of tours and interactive experiences in restored tenement apartments and shops, meet the “residents,” or tour the whole neighborhood. Most experiences are indicated for kids ages 8 and up, and all of them involve stairs, so this is definitely not the best pick for the toddler set. It is however, a fantastic way to teach the kids about the history of the Lower East Side and the immigrant experience.
Bonus Points: The museum is home to one of the funkier museum shops we’ve seen with unique New York-themed items that make great gifts or souvenirs.
Note: We know how much it stinks to get everyone dressed and all the snacks and other accouterments packed up only to find out that the event was canceled or the museum is closed. So, do us a favor and double check all dates, times, and locations before packing up and leaving the house. OK? Thanks.