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The Museum of Tolerance (MOT), a multimedia museum in Los Angeles, California, United States, is designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. Established in 1993, as the educational arm of human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center,[1] MOT also deals with atrocities in Cambodia and Latin America,[2] along with issues like bullying and hate crimes.[3] The MOT has an associated museum and professional development multi-media training facility in New York City, and announced plans in 2005 to expand to Jerusalem but construction became mired in controversy due to the building site.

Museum of Tolerance
Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles, March 2008.JPG
Established 1993
Location 9786 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, California, United States
Type Holocaust memorials, racism and prejudice museum
Visitors 350,000 annually


Los AngelesEdit

The original museum in Los Angeles, California opened in 1993, built at a cost of $50 million by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, named after Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor.[2] The museum receives 350,000 visitors annually, about a third of which are school-age children. The museum's most talked-about exhibit is "The Holocaust Section", where visitors are divided into groups to take their own place in some of the events of World War II. These experiences are then discussed afterwards. The museum also features testimonies of Holocaust survivors, often from live volunteers who tell their stories and answer questions. People also get cards with pictures of Jewish children on them and at the end of the museum trip, it is revealed whether the child on the card survived or died in the Holocaust.

Protesting L.A. museum expansion

In addition, the museum features a "Tolerancenter" that discusses issues of prejudice in everyday life, a Multimedia Learning Center, Finding Our Families – Finding Ourselves, a collection of archives and documents, various temporary exhibits such as Los Angeles visual artist Bill Cormalis Jr's "A" Game In The B Leagues," which documents through paintings, the Civil Rights movement during the segregation of colored people in Major League Baseball, and an Arts and Lectures Program.

A classroom visit to the museum is featured in the 2007 movie Freedom Writers, based on the real-life story of high school teacher Erin Gruwell and her students. The museum was parodied in an episode of South Park called "The Death Camp of Tolerance".


One of the primary criticisms of the Museum of Tolerance is that its exhibits use excessive multimedia technology to appeal to and manipulate the emotions of children. The museum uses fast-paced skits, dioramas, films, and interactive computer-controlled exhibits in an effort to make an emotional impact on visitors. For most of the tour, actual historical artifacts are absent, and a select few are shown at the end.[4]

Jerusalem Mamilla CemeteryEdit

In 2005, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's (SWC) Rabbi Marvin Hier announced plans to construct a "Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity" in Jerusalem by building on part of the historic Mamilla Cemetery,[5] a Muslim burial ground since the Rashidun Caliphate 1,300 years ago.

Criticism of destruction of cemeteryEdit

The MOT-Jerusalem has been criticized for being built on former Muslim cemetery grounds.[6][7] The Mamilla Cemetery contained the graves of many important Islamic saints and scholars, as well as several Mamluk tombs.[5][8] The SWC asserts that the cemetery was long ago deconsecrated by Islamic leaders, and that secular Arab leaders prior to the creation of the State of Israel had planned various development projects there.[9] This argument has in turn been challenged in the Israeli legal system, but the argument was rejected by Israel's Supreme Court.

The plan has been severely criticized by both Israelis and Palestinians.[10] Construction had been stayed several times by the courts before allowing it to continue.[11][12] In autumn, 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court cleared "the way for L.A.'s Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a Holy Land counterpart to its Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard."[13]

On November 19, 2008 a group of US Jewish and Muslim leaders sent a letter to the Wiesenthal Center asking to halt the construction of the Museum of Tolerance on the historic Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.[14]

Other points of criticismEdit

While the location of the MOT-Jerusalem has elicited the most media attention, architectural, archaeological and social critiques have accompanied the project throughout its course. Haaretz architecture critic Esther Zandberg has critiqued the location of an ostentatious Gehry design at the heart of Jerusalem, arguing that Jerusalem is not Bilbao.[15]

Others have expressed concern over the focus of the museum on tolerance amongst Jews, rather than tolerance between Jews and Arabs.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ About us
  2. ^ a b "Los Angeles Journal; Near Riots' Ashes, a Museum Based on Tolerance". New York Times. February 10, 1993. 
  3. ^ "Teen court program tackles bullying, hate crimes". Los Angeles Times. July 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ Marcuse, Harold. "Experiencing the Jewish Holocaust in Los Angeles: The Beit Hashoah – Museum of Tolerance", Other Voices, February 2000. Retrieved on April 12, 2007
  5. ^ a b Donald Macintyre (9 February 2006). "Israel plans to build 'museum of tolerance' on Muslim graves". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Abe Selig (11 February 2010). "Wiesenthal Center: Museum not built on ancient ruins". Jerusalem Post. 
  7. ^ Saree Makdisi (February 12, 2010). "A Museum of Tolerance We Don't Need". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ Asem Khalidi (Spring 2009). "The Mamilla Cemetery: A Buried History". Jerusalem Quarterly. 37. 
  9. ^ Gil Zohar and Gail Lichtman (February 21, 2008). "Jerusalem deconstructed". Jerusalem Post. 
  10. ^ Akiva Eldar (30 December 2008). "Israel Prize laureate opposes Museum of Tolerance". Haaretz. 
  11. ^ Hadassah on Museum of tolerance Archived 2009-09-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Zandberg on lack of transparency
  13. ^ "Israeli court OKs Museum of Tolerance's controversial branch", Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2008
  14. ^ Political Debate, Yes; Bigotry, No
  15. ^ Esther Zandberg. "Surroundings / No tolerance for Jerusalem's uniqueness", Haaretz, May 11, 2008.
  16. ^ Samuel G. Freeman."Frank Gehry's Mideast Peace Plan", New York Times, August 1, 2004. Bradley Burston (19 November 2008). "Dividing Jerusalem, one wall at a time". Haaretz. 

External linksEdit