United States Merchant Marine Academy Unveils “I am a Jew” Exhibit
KINGS POINT, N.Y. May 19, 2023 — On Thursday, May 11th, The American Merchant Marine Museum at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) unveiled its newest exhibit, “I am a Jew: USMMA’s Jewish Experience, 1942-Present.”
During a formal ceremony in Wiley Hall, USMMA’s administration building, Professor Joshua Smith, Director of the American Merchant Marine Museum, outlined the exhibit’s goals, “First, it dispels the myth that Jews don’t serve the nation or go to sea. Second, it seeks to educate the USMMA community and the public about the presence of Jews here, including faculty, staff, and midshipmen. Third and finally, it will explore the lives of exemplary Jewish alumni and place them within historical context.”
He hinted at what was in store for the audience when he mentioned alumni, “whose stories of perseverance in the face of adversity are inspiring at so many levels - whether it’s surviving a horrendous lifeboat experience, helping to found Israel, or—and this is a big one—becoming the first Jewish Superintendent of any Federal Service Academy.” Smith then directed attention to Rear Admiral Paul Krinsky, a graduate of USMMA’s Class of 1950, who became the 7th Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Krinsky, now in his mid-nineties, attended the event, a poignant reminder of the Academy’s Jewish history.
The speaking program commenced with an invocation led by Rabbi Yamin Levy, of Beth Hadassah Congregation in Great Neck, who also blew the Shofar during the ceremony.
First Class Midshipman Abigail Thomas, a third generation Jewish Kings Pointer, who supported the exhibit by reaching out to alumni and getting their personal stories for it, shared her experiences as a current midshipman. Mr. Alex Rosenberg, Class of 1969, who Smith described as “a stalwart, providing boots on the ground support” to the exhibit, recounted Jewish life from 1943, when, his father, “Rosie #1,” arrived at Kings Point until the present. Rosenberg’s speech reflected the theme of the exhibit, “I am a Jew.”
Vice Admiral Joanna M. Nunan, Superintendent, concluded with some brief remarks, then she and Midshipman Thomas had the honor of unveiling the painting, “Exodus 1947,” a gift from Rabbi Levy and the Beth Hadassah Congregation.
After a brief reception, the group moved to Ackerman Auditorium for a screening of the documentary, Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched a Nation, introduced by its Director, Elizabeth Rodgers, and special guest, Eileen Schulman, widow of Samuel Herschel Schulman, the last surviving American crew member of the ship, Exodus 1947.
Midshipman response was enthusiastic. First Class Midshipman Davis Caldwell said, “I went to the opening of the new exhibit, ’I am a Jew’ to support my friend Abbie Thomas and I was very impressed. Not only with the amount of faculty and staff who showed up in support, but with the amount of community members who came as well. I felt it was a very powerful representation of our Academy embracing both the history of our midshipmen and alumni as well as the community in which our school is located.”
The painting and exhibit will remain on display at USMMA.
A video of this event is posted on MaritimeTV.com and USMMA’s Official Facebook Page.
For museum hours and more information about the American Merchant Marine Museum go to: American Merchant Marine Museum | U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (usmma.edu)
To learn more about USMMA at: United States Merchant Marine Academy (usmma.edu)