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“More for the Gentiles”

Musee d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme
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$153.33*
and up
The Paris Pass Including Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour and Entry to Over 60...
Ranked #172 of 1,124 things to do in Paris
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: The Museum of Jewish Art and History is housed in one of the most beautiful historic monuments in the Marais, the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, built in the 17th century. The museum traces the evolution of the Jewish world via its artistic and cultural heritage, focussing on the history of the Jews in France since the Middle Ages and evoking the communities of Europe and North Africa. Its collection, one of the finest in the world, comprises religious objects, manuscripts, textiles and unique archive documents concerning the Dreyfus Affair. Special importance is given to the Jewish presence in the arts, featuring the painters of the School of Paris (Chagall, Kikoïne, Soutine...) and contemporary artists such Christian Boltanski and Sophie Calle. The museum runs programmes of workshops for children, families and adults, guided tours, lectures, live performances and films throughout the year.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Activities for older children, Wheelchair access, Stairs / elevator, Lockers / storage, Bathroom facilities
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
487 reviews
316 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 456 helpful votes
“More for the Gentiles”
Reviewed February 18, 2014

Museums focusing upon a single religious entity present a major challenge. Observant members of that religion are likely to know most of what such an institution can teach them, while non-observant members may or may not know, but are unlikely to care. It is visitors who belong to other religions who are likely to gain most. Agnostics and atheists are unlikely to be interested.
With that in mind, the most useful exhibitions here are those chronicling the rituals and observances of Orthodox Jews over a Calendar Year ( daily and Sabbath services, those for Festivals and High Holy Days), and over a life span ( birth, circumcision, barmitzvah, marriage, death. burial and mourning). All of this is easy to make interesting in text and photographs, but actual visual displays offer little scope for aesthetic pleasures compared with Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. The religion forbids figurative images of a sacred nature, much as Islam, but whereas the latter made up for this by the development of caligraphy, and the most floridly beautiful form of art based on plants, minerals, and geometric patterns executed through carpets and tiling, Judaism has no equivalent. One is left with scrolls, prayer books, oil lamps,metal and velvet dressings for the Ark, the Torah, the prayer table and the lectern. Religious trinkets such as wine goblets, candlesticks, mezzuzahs, and Passover plates offer little scope for artistic invention. An attempt to make up the deficit by including paintings by Soutine, Chagall, Modigliani, and Zadkine leave an unsatisfactory impression because they are among their more inferior works.
The other fairly successful achievement is the attempt to chronicle the actual arrival of Jews in France, their early persecution and confinement to Ghettos, their exclusion from most trades and professions, and their later emancipation beginning with the Napoleonic era. Later outbursts of Antisemitism such as the Dreyfus Case are quite well covered as is the growth of French Fascism in the Inter-World War years. The more recent instances linked to the Le Pen and similar movements on the one hand, the huge influx of Muslim immigrants on the other, and in between, the insanely misguided attacks by the Left on all religions that in the case of Judaism would wipe out two of its basic observances, circumcision and ritual slaughter of animals (both shared with Islam), are given little if any attention. The notorious role of the Vichy Authorities and other elements of French Society in the Deportation of French Jews to the gas chambers is hardly mentioned, as is the important role played by Jews in the Resistance. Both themes are very well documented in the Museum of the Resistance in Lyons. For me, the biggest deficit was the failure to narrate the tremendous contribution made by its small Jewish community to the artistic and political life of France since the emancipation, and especially in the 20th Cent. Almost nothing and nobody is covered beyond the painters/sculptor I already mentioned . The fields of omission include eminent actors and directors in the Film and Theatre Industries; Medicine and Science ( 5 Nobel Laureates); Music ( distinguished composers and performers); and Politics ( 2 Prime-Ministers and many senior cabinet ministers, as well as heads of International Organizations).
The building itself (Hotel de St-Aignan) is a complete anomaly: 17th Cent., and with absolutely no connection whatsoever to French Jews, it is classic in the most Christian sense, seriously compromising the spirit and atmosphere of the Museum. The whole enterprise pales in comparison with its custom-designed counterpart in Berlin that started Daniel Liebeskind on his path to fame.

Visited February 2014
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2 Thank davidgoldberg1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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231 reviews from our community

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  • English first
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English first
Paris, France
Level Contributor
44 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“The cultural part of the Jewish district - don't miss it”
Reviewed January 29, 2014

The museum is located in a historic district of Paris . The museum building is beautiful with a lovely courtyard. If you want to prepare for your visit , you can visit the website and visits for groups are offered regularly .You can request to join the group. This museum presents the history , art and culture of Jewish. If you do not know Judaism , the museum has an educational approach that is not boring. You will begin by presenting the Torah scrolls . If you know Judaism , you will be delighted to see beautiful trinkets , luxurious textiles, embroidered dresses, some master paintings etc.. There are temporary exhibitions and usually very interesting.
There are audio guides and the staff is friendly and very helpful. The museum is very well conditioned . You will find a bookstore and gift shop . The museum also organizes numerous workshops and visits outside walls.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank Ontheroadwithlara
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oslo, Norway
Level Contributor
132 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
“Well curated, unique and beautiful”
Reviewed January 11, 2014

Wow!

What an breathtaking experience. Away from the crowded tourist spots, this was a really pleasant surprise.

Their english Audio Guides (included in the entrance fee) was the little thing making this museum stand out. THe exhibitions are well laid out and curated, and you do not only learn something, but also walk out amazed from both history and the handcrafted items!

Only thing we missed were more english books in the book store.

Really worth a visit if you are interested in history and/or handcraftship.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank Martin H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
2,519 reviews
1,408 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2,330 helpful votes
“Its the Crown Jewels of artistic and intellectual contribution made by the Jewish community in Paris”
Reviewed December 29, 2013

Be prepared to be blown away by the experience in this remarkable attraction.This is one,gigantic repository of artistic,historical and significantly cultural heritage. Its a chronological wander through a time-line of European Jewish life from the Middle ages to the 20th century.
Its has depth,whimsy and pathos,yet uplifting when you see the avalanche of contribution made by this remarkable community. There is superb filigree craftsmanship as seen on ancient manuscripts and religious objects . I liked the way the museum is curated,especially the focus on the intellectual movements politically and through the arts in Paris.
Throughout the museum,the heavyweight champions of art,Chagall,Modigliani and Soutine steal the show with their magnificent canvasses. Three hours later,we emerged satisfied,informed and charmed. Falafel King for lunch, maybe?

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Eli B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Alexandria, VA
Level Contributor
127 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 81 helpful votes
“Interesting history of Jews and Judaism in France”
Reviewed December 1, 2013

The museum, in my opinion, emphasizes the history of Judaism in France (and Europe), illustrated with art rather than being an "art museum." (That's not a negative criticism. I hadn't known what to expect when I visited.) Well worth the time.

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
Thank mackovita
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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