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Torah and Taboo: Containing Jewish Relics and Jewish Identity at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Is museum space religious space? Do strategies of display, i.e., the ways certain objects such as human remains and ritual items are presented and/or experienced, make them into sacred objects? Who or what determines whether or not a particular object may be appropriately displayed in a museum context? In focusing on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and on a series of staged encounters there with spaces, objects, and other people, this article considers the possibility that the USHMM serves as a contemporary Jewish reliquary as well as the implications of such a notion, especially in relation to the performance of different types of Jewish identity at the museum. Using archival sources, it examines the debates over the treatment and display of selected artifacts and how those decisions impact the Museum's Jewish character.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, DM 301C, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA;, Email:


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