CLEVELAND—The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage announces Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music, the first large-scale museum exhibition to illustrate the famed conductor and composer’s life, Jewish identity, and social activism. Created by the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia to coincide with the maestro’s 100th birthday, the exhibition features approximately 100 historic artifacts and photographs— from Bernstein’s piano and conducting suit to family heirlooms—along with original films and immersive sound installations. Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music is on view at the Maltz Museum from September 25, 2019 to March 1, 2020.

Audiences may be familiar with many of Bernstein’s works, notably West Side Story (1957), but not necessarily how his approach to music was informed by the political and social crises of his day. Bernstein used the arts to express the restlessness, anxiety, fear, and hope of an American Jew living through World War II and the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and turbulent social change that shook his faith: in God, in humanity, and in government.

The exhibition focuses on this theme in Bernstein’s work—what he referred to as his “search for a solution to the 20th‐century crisis of faith.” It explores how he confronted this “crisis” by breaking racial barriers in his casting decisions for On the Town (1944), addressing America’s changing ideas about race and ethnicity in West Side Story, and giving a voice to the human rights crisis during the Vietnam era in his provocative theater piece, MASS (1971), as examples.

Ivy Weingram, who curated Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music for NMAJH said, “Leonard Bernstein is remembered as a passionate, larger-than-life personality—a charismatic conductor, devoted educator, and skilled musician. This exhibition will delve into his memorable works while also exploring a lesser known side of Bernstein—the second-generation American Jew who inspired social progress, both on and off the stage. As our nation continues to confront issues of race, religion, and what it means to be an ‘American’, Bernstein’s music takes on new, personal meanings for every audience that experiences it.”

The exhibition brings together approximately 100 original artifacts and photographs, some never-before-exhibited in public. Artifact highlights include Bernstein’s piano, an annotated copy of Romeo and Juliet used for the development of West Side Story (originally imagined as East Side Story), the program for his Carnegie Hall debut, his conducting suit, his easel used for studying scores and composing, and much more.

Bernstein’s Jewish heritage, so deeply ingrained in him by his parents and so intricately woven through his life and work, is conveyed through a number of artifacts, including the mezuzah that hung in his studio, the Hebrew prayer book he carried with him when he traveled, his ketubah (Jewish marriage contact), his family’s Passover seder plate, and the Talmud (book of Jewish law) given to Bernstein by his father.

The exhibition also features a variety of films, sound installations, and interactive media. Visitors will hear from Bernstein himself through archival recordings and documentary footage, alongside interviews with those who knew him best. Film clips of Bernstein conducting, his visit to Israel in 1967, and excerpts of West Side Story highlight key moments in Bernstein’s life and career.

A state-of-the-art multimedia interactive invites visitors to explore the many layers to Bernstein’s original compositions, including how Bernstein the composer wove elements of synagogue music and his own family’s history into his works for film, Broadway, and orchestra.

To communicate the significance of Bernstein’s visit to a Displaced Persons camp in Germany during Spring 1948—where he led an orchestra of Holocaust survivors—the Museum displays video testimonies, courtesy of USC Shoah Foundation, from those who participated in this little-known moment in Bernstein’s life.

An original film conveys the enduring impact of Bernstein’s MASS, re-contextualizing the monumental composition by combining it with contemporary examples of the power of music. Another original film features interviews with Bernstein mentees and fans, including Alec Baldwin (voice of the New York Philharmonic radio broadcasts), actor Mandy Patinkin, playwright Tony Kushner, and musician Wynton Marsalis.


A special component to the museum’s educational offerings includes a partnership with Roots of American Music (ROAM), inviting groups to add-on to their exhibition tour with a “Bernstein Interactive Music Experience.” Working with a ROAM teaching artist, students will learn about the power of music in protest and use one of Bernstein’s songs to craft lyrics that address injustices they experience today. Group tours run approximately 60 minutes. The add-on experience will also run approximately 60 minutes and cost $150. Ten scholarships are available for schools that meet the criteria. For more information, or to book at tour, please contact Group Experience Coordinator, Sjobor Hammer, at 216-593-0595 or


The centerpiece of the Maltz Museum’s public programming in celebration of Leonard Bernstein is part of the Concert Series in which the maestro’s music will be played at venues throughout Cleveland, including “The Bernstein Beat with The Cleveland Orchestra,” on the 50th anniversary of their Family Concert Series, featuring Leonard Bernstein’s daughter Jamie Bernstein. February 2 at 2:00pm, to be held at Severance Hall.

Additional educational programming highlights planned in conjunction with Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music include:

  • As part of the Art & Identity Series, lectures, panels, and performances, “The Making of Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music,” an opening night discussion with staff from the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia take us behind the scenes into profiling the life and times of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. September 25 at 7:00pm, to be held at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.
  • As part of the Film Series, award-winning and acclaimed documentaries, “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,” narrated by Cleveland’s own Joel Grey, this film examines the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical, with talk-back by Bill Rudman of The Musical Theater Project. October 2 at 6:30pm, to be held at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.
  • As part of the Life with Lenny Series, personal stories from people who knew Leonard Bernstein, “Behind the Lens with Oscar Award-winning Filmmaker Howard Rosenman,” learn how a chance encounter with Leonard Bernstein led to a romantic relationship and kick-started a monumental career in show business. October 24 at 7:00pm, to be held at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

See Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music for a special discounted admission price of $5 on opening week, September 25 to 29. Additional details are available at

For more information, visit

Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music is presented in Cleveland by: Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage; Orchestrated by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Key support provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Major support provided by The Asper Foundation; CHG Charitable Trust as recommended by Carole Haas Gravagno; The Harvey Goodstein Charitable Foundation; Lindy Communities; The Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Family Foundation; and Cheryl and Philip Milstein. Additional support provided by Judith Creed and Robert Schwartz; Jill and Mark Fishman; Robert and Marjie Kargman; David G. and Sandra G. Marshall; Robin and Mark Rubenstein; and The Savitz Family Foundation. Special thanks to The Leonard Bernstein Office; the Bernstein Family; Jacobs Music; and the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, and USC Shoah Foundation; With local support from: Jules and Fran Belkin, Cleveland Foundation, Key Bank, John P. Murphy Foundation, Richard and Emily Smucker Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Maltz Museum is generous supported by: Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Ohio Arts Council, Jewish Federation of Cleveland


About the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, located in Beachwood, Ohio, introduces visitors to the beauty and diversity of Jewish heritage in the context of the American experience and seeks to promote an understanding of Jewish history, religion, and culture with people of all ages and backgrounds. Through the museum’s flagship program, Stop the Hate, visitors also explore the history of bias and discrimination and take opportunity to reflect on injustices they experience in their own lived in order to recognize and prevent hate in all its forms in the present and future.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage is located at 2929 Richmond Road in Beachwood, Ohio. Museum hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, Wednesday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, and closed Monday. Museum admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for senior s (60+) & students (12+), $5.00 for youth (5-11), and free for children under age 4, Museum Members, and active military with ID; reduced prices available for groups of 10 or more.

Connect with the Maltz Museum online, call 216-493-0575, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the handle @MaltzMuseum