Filling an unassuming Brooklyn townhouse is a kind of still life Noah’s ark.
Established in 2008 by a Brooklyn rabbi, the Torah Animal World museum endeavors to present every beast, great and small named in the Old Testament and the Talmud, albeit in taxidermied form.
The idea is that visitors to museum, be they Jewish or Gentile, can get a sense of the living reality of the sacred texts through the animals named in the books. One of three locations, the others in Fallsburg, NY and Lakewood, NJ, the flagship location is contained in a simple Brooklyn row house, and is full to bursting with much-handled creatures. It was important to the rabbi that visitors be able touch the animals so as to better experience their meaningful nature.
Hundreds of posed animals are housed within the museums and camels, lions, giraffe, and bears all figure among its holy menagerie. There are also special exhibitions on display such as the “Birds of the Torah,” which contains an example of each of the 24 birds mentioned in the book, and a collection of “Sheratzim,” or insects. Each display is accompanied by a plaque describing the creature’s presence in the holy book and its significance. Animals considered kosher and those considered non-kosher are on display, with the one admitted omission being the pig, as many of the museum’s more religious visitors would rather not even look at the beast.
Despite an annual attendance of almost 35,000 the Torah Animal World in Borough Park, Brooklyn was close closing in 2013 due to lack of funds. However funds were raised, the museum was saved, and has continued on its Brooklyn location.