The synergy between Leonard Bernstein’s Jewish identity and his music gets a thorough examination in this exhibition organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

On view at Brandeis University’s Spingold Theater Center through Nov. 18, the exhibition is free and open to the public on Wednesdays from 12-5 p.m., Thursdays from 12-8 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 12-5 p.m.

Personal letters, marked-up scores, recordings, treasured objects and interviews tell the story, along with interactive displays where viewers can experience some of Bernstein’s greatest works, including “West Side Story.”

Bernstein’s Boston roots and his years teaching at Brandeis are important to understanding his complex life, according to Brandeis University professor Jonathan D. Sarna, the museum’s chief historian. “He’s perhaps the only great American composer who heard his first serious music in a synagogue, Boston’s Congregation Mishkan Tefila,” Sarna said.


The exhibition tells the story of Bernstein’s roots as a Bostonian, son of Jewish immigrants and a founding faculty member of the Brandeis music department. It also explores how his upbringing in Boston’s Congregation Mishkan Tefila influenced his life and music. Visitors will find an individual who expressed the restlessness, anxiety, fear and hope of an American Jew living through World War II and the Holocaust, Vietnam and turbulent social change around the world.

Among the worldwide celebrations of Bernstein’s 100th year, The New York Times noted that “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music” is “among the most notable homages to Mr. Bernstein.”

For group tours, call 781-736-5008 or visit Brandeis Celebrates Bernstein.

Please note: Patrons must enter the exhibition by a short flight of stairs.

Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music” has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

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