A Torah Scroll at the American Museum of Natural History


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. Find more Jewrotica writing by Joseph here.

Rated PG-13

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City has been educating the public about the natural world for over a century. While the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the other side of the park has updated it’s collection to add artifacts from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas to their existing collection of items from Europe and the Classical World, the anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History still believe that Europeans are the only unnatural civilization on the planet. Let us hope the American Museum of Natural History will join the 21st Century soon by adding some dioramas of European neighborhoods.

The decision to exclude European neighborhoods reflects a policy of dehumanizing non-Europeans in a scientific setting that was more prevalent in the past. As late as the 1950’s, informal educators put living non-Europeans on display the way zoos display animals. In the early 20th Century, human zoo exhibits were found in London, Paris, Oslo, Hamburg, and New York. In 1906, a Congolese man found a home in the monkey house of the Bronx zoo.

On the one hand, the divide between Europeans and non-Europeans, endorsed by ignorant scientists, split kol Israel into European Jews who remained out of the Museum of Natural History and Asian Jews who had their own diorama featuring a Torah Scroll. On the other hand, that diorama tells the story of Jews living in the Middle East over 1,000 years ago that too many American Jews have forgotten. This story is part of a history that makes the English-speaking press every so often in the form human interest pieces such as a report about a synagogue in Mosul damaged during conflict or a Brooklyn Jewish bakery with roots in Aleppo.

Modern biologists know that racial categories have no scientific foundation. The typical person’s genome is like a scoop of sand with most grains resembling the grains found nearby, but there could be grains originating from anywhere on the globe. Humans mix and match our alleles every generation. We are not sedimentary rocks.

A new effort seeks to mend divisions between Europeans Jews and African Jews by holding conferences for African Jews where they can tell their stories. This conference on Jewish life in African, hosted by the Morocco-based Association Mimouna and the USA-based American Sephardi Federation includes voices from both emerging and established Jewish African communities. The consensus for unity and inclusion forming through the annual conference demonstrates the positive change that can occur when people go from being subjects in the eyes of scientists to being speakers in control of their own destinies.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.