Around New York, for Jews on Christmas, a common way to mark the day is to dine at a Chinese restaurant and catch a movie. But Hilton Raw had a different pairing in mind this year: bagels and Modigliani.
Mr. Raw, a Jewish visitor to New York from Brazil, came to the Jewish Museum on Monday to see its exhibit of work by the Italian-born painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). And while he was at the museum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he couldn’t resist stopping for a bagel and lox at its restaurant, operated by Russ & Daughters, the Jewish appetizing specialist.
“It’s a pretty good combination, isn’t it?” said Mr. Raw of the art and food.
The music producer had plenty of company. The museum attracted hundreds of visitors on Monday as it continued a tradition going back more than 20 years of staying open on Christmas.
How crowded was it? A wait for a table at the restaurant reached 90 minutes by midday—hence, Mr. Raw’s decision to have his bagel to go.
While most other museums in the city, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, were closed for the holiday, a number of Jewish institutions stayed open and saw similarly large crowds.
At the Lower East Side’s Museum at Eldridge Street, which is home to the restored built-in-1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, more than 500 visitors came throughout the day—at least five times the number for a standard weekday.
The decision to open the doors, says Hanna Griff-Slevin, the Museum at Eldridge Street’s director of cultural programming, is fairly obvious: Jews welcome more options.
“It’s nice to come to a beautiful space and learn about your heritage,” said Ms. Griff-Slevin.
As an added incentive, most of the Jewish museums in the city offered special programming on Christmas. The Jewish Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street both featured concerts with performers steeped in the Jewish klezmer tradition.
Not that you have to be Jewish to visit a Jewish museum on Christmas. A case in point: Cherry Tai, a native of Singapore who now lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and came to the Eldridge Street museum with her husband and some friends.
Ms. Tai said she visited simply because she was looking for something to do on the holiday. But as she took in the space, with its striking Moorish-inspired architecture and stained-glass windows galore, she found herself moved, particularly because she had never been inside a synagogue before.
“It’s very eye-opening for me,” she said.
Write to Charles Passy at firstname.lastname@example.org